Article

Dutch Images of Indigenous Sámi Religion. Jan Luyken's Illustrations of Lapland

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Abstract

In 1682, the Dutch artist Jan Luyken (1649–1712) made a novel set of copper engravings to illustrate the book Lapland (1682). The book was a Dutch translation of Lapponia (1673), the first scientific monograph about Sámi culture and written by the Swedish-German scholar Johannes Schefferus at the University of Uppsala in Sweden. Its original illustrations were woodcuts based on drawings by the author. According to the commission from the Swedish authorities, the book should enlighten Europeans about Sámi culture by using unbiased information, and thus refute misunderstandings that had occurred among many Europeans labouring under the false belief that Swedish military success was due to Sámi witchcraft. The illustrations in Lapland differ from those in Lapponia in several ways, for instance regarding composition, number of figures and choice of subject matter. Two illustrations of indigenous Sámi religion in Lapland are focused on, and the discussion relates them to the accompanying text and to illustrations in Lapponia. The questions asked are to what extent the illustrations play a part in the construction of meaning in Lapland; to what extent do they contribute to othering processes; and what role do the background figures in the illustrations have, i.e., do they have important functions or are they purely decorative? The discussions reveal that the illustrations play a part in the construction of meaning in several ways, for instance by playing a role in the negotiation of meaning in a semantic space between word and image. They contribute to othering processes by implicit references to ideas of witchcraft and by displaying differences in gesture between Sámi and Europeans. The background figures are more than purely decorative because they play a role in the narrative of the illustrations.

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... The results were published under the title Lapponia in 1673, 3 and quickly achieved widespread academic and popular interest, being translated into English in 1674, German in 1675, French in 1678, Dutch in 1682, but not into Swedish until as late as 1956 (Schefferus, 1956(Schefferus, [1673; see Figure 3; also Bergesen, 2015). The book increased the already considerable international interest in the Sámi and their material culture. ...
... The illustrations in Lapponia came to have a paramount importance for the general notion of Sáminess (Bergesen, 2015;Lindin and Svanberg, 1990). The emblematic motif, the Sámi with the ackja or geres and the reindeer, was already widely spread through the works of Olaus Magnus, but through Schefferus' work it was turned into a symbol, such as the naked Indian on the Armadillo (Mignolo, 1995;Nordin, 2013b; see Figure 4). ...
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