• Lbs_937_8vo,_0057r


Sölvi Helgason 1850

Sölvi Helgason's extant works are over a hundred. His works are decorative and beautifully crafted plant coils, ornamental letters or portraits. In addition to his drawings he also wrote a number of poems, stories and essays. This is a page from one of his essays, mostly on geographical subjects decorated with drawings. The manuscript includes 21 images, many of them with text on the back, including four portraits and three letter images that Sölvi made around 1850. The images are finely drawn and painted in various colours which is quite strange given his situation when he made them. They have a degree of inner harmony due to the repetitive and mirrored patterns reminiscent of manuscript illustrations and older patterns. Additionally, Sölvi's workmanship is both unique and unusual.


Sölvi is one of Iceland's best known folk artists and due to his wanderings all over Iceland there are many stories about Sölvi. He often added names that he felt more appropriate to his own, such as Sólon Íslandus, a name that stuck to him. He was born in Skagafjörður in 1820 but lost his parents at a young age. He was taken into various farms as a child until he started wandering around 16 years of age. Sölvi often asked for lodging and favours on farms and would pay his way with a picture of the landlords adorned with flowers. Many caricatures by Sölvi have also been preserved. In 1843 Sölvi was arrested for forging his travelling papers and was sentenced for this crime two years later. A number of copies of these forged papers have been preserved. He was sentenced often during his lifetime and most often for wandering and theft. He was flogged for his crimes and finally sentenced to three years in prison in Copenhagen. Sölvi died on November 27 th 1895.




National and University Library of Iceland