Animal style art, is characterized by its emphasis on animal and bird themes, and the term describes an approach to decoration which existed from China to Northern Europe in the early Iron Age, and the barbarian art of the Migrations Period. It is a zoomorphic style of decoration, and the Animal Style was used to decorate small objects by warrior-herdsmen, whose economy was based entirely on animals and plunder.[1]

Perm animal styleEdit

File:Permic bear.jpg

A distinct style of decoration found in objects made of various copper alloys near the Ural mountains and the Volga and Kama rivers in today's Russia beginning from about 7th - 5th centuries BCE. [1]

Germanic animal styleEdit

The study of zoomorphic decorations was pioneered by Bernhard Salin[2] in the early 20th century. He classified animal art of the 400-900 period into three phases: Scandinavian styles I, II and III.

Style I. First appears in northwest Europe, probably originating from the traditions of nomadic Asiatic steppes peoples, it became a noticeable new style with the introduction of chip carving applied to bronze and silver in the 5th century. Characterized by animals in the margins of works that are twisted, exaggerated, surreal, fragmented body parts filling every available space, creating an intense detailed energetic feel. It can be clearly seen in the Norwegian Vendel sword hilt from Grave V, Snartemo Hägebostad, Vest Agder, Norway (see picture). Also in this fibula (picture) from Öland Island, ca. 400-450 A.D.

Style II. After about 600 Style I was in decline and Salin's Style II rose in popularity. Displacing the surreal and fragmented animals of Style I, Style II's animals are whole beasts, elongated and intertwined into symmetrical shapes. Thus two bears are facing each other in perfect symmetry ("confronted"), forming the shape of a heart. Examples of Style II can be found on the gold purse lid (picture) from Sutton Hoo (ca. 625).

Style III. {incomplete}

Insular artEdit

Animal style was one component, along with Celtic art and late classical elements, in the formation of style of Insular art and Anglo-Saxon art in the British Isles, and through these routes and others on the Continent, left a considerable legacy in later Medieval art.

See alsoEdit


  1. Emma C.Bunker, Animal Style Art from East to West, Asia Society. p. 13

External linksEdit

fr:Style animal sv:Nordisk djurornamentik

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