historic rosemaling art norway
History & Traditions

Wisdom from the Past in Traditional Art

Norwegian Decorative Art of Rosemaling

In traditional art, it was a custom to have a saying or Proverb decorating the border of a bowl, utensil or piece of furniture. Especially this is seen in the old decorative art of Norway, called Rosemaling.

Telemark Rosemaling
Rosemaling by Bjorn Pettersen

The following words of wisdom were indicative of a social art history as they were penned by the artist of that time and reflected their thoughts and values. A time capsule of advice.

Norwegian Proverbs on Rosemaling Decorative Art

Wording old traditional art rosemaling norway wall

Here are a few to ponder:

Alderen kjem ikkje aleine; han fører så mye med seg.

Age comes not alone; it brings so much with it.

 –Det gror ikke til på veien mellon gode venner.

On the road between the homes of friends, grass does not grow.

 –Ingen kan hjelp den som ikke vil hjelpe seg sjøl.

Noone can help someone who will not help him/herself

Too much cleverness is foolishness.

For mye klokskap er dårskap.

Norwegian Traditional art form Rosmaling on wooden plate with proverb saying on border

Curious to know more about Rosemaling, an art form that has experienced a Renaissance in America, particularly the Norwegian areas of the Mid-West?

Find more here

82 thoughts on “Wisdom from the Past in Traditional Art”

    1. Yes I think we have all come across those people Laurie, the ones who like to regale us with knowledge and flaunt it when it is unwarranted. It might make them look a little silly and possibly belies a hidden insecurity. Also I think this proverb alludes to intellectual snobbery, I think, and a person who ignore individuals who have many other valuable skills and attributes.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. So there is some commonality with the languages you know, Brian? That reminds me of when I was working with a French Canadian client and Pakistani/Northern Indian Physical therapist and we all noted that the Norwegian word for Pineapple was the same in the native languages (other than English). I thought it might be because it was a relatively new word only added in once they discovered pineapple in the Americas in colonial times?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Relatively new indeed. Now the words I spotted in Norwegian are “easy”. ‘Med’ is related to the German ‘mit’ and the Dutch ‘met’. kan is easy. ‘hjelp’ is a fun reminder of ‘help’.
        As you can tell I love languages.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Me too! I loved learning Japanese, buts of German, and later Danish and Norwegian. I tried to learn Polish but it was impossible to reproduce the sounds using online programs. It is surprising the number of common words across languages.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. You have learnt japanese… ??? Wow. I am impressed. I am learning a bit of Hokkien, a straights Chinese dialect in Singapore and malaysia.
            All European languages have common roots tracing back to the Caucase mountains. Some Hindi words are similar. But Slavic? They must have separated very early…
            Do you know platforms to learn languages?

            Liked by 1 person

            1. I use Duolingo and Future learn but for Norwegian I have friends who are native speakers and we learn together from time to time. I try to use it on social media when chatting to the Norwegians in Norway or the Danes in Denmark. The Danish pronounciation is difficult so I switched to just concentrating on Norwegian – as the Danes understand that too.
              Japanese is not a difficult language at all. It is taught in many schools here. That started in the 70’s and my high school was the pilot school. At that time, there was loads of Japanese coming to visit Australia for their short vacation. Direct flights and the fact that we have cute and cuddly animals like the Koalas helped foster that influx. Responding to that, the education system encouraged Japanese as a language in schools. Now the kids learn it from year 3 in a very simple social way – cultural aspects, food etc. In upper primary and high school years, it gets serious. The characters are very logical in the basic alphabet but they get much tricky in the senior years. I regret that I had to give up language when I went to senior school as they did not offer Japanese…. I still remember a lot of what I learnt way back then. It sticks.

              Liked by 1 person

              1. Compliments on japanese. My Frog compatriots are lousy on languages. I was lucky to learn so many languages on site. Later on, when I got to France my French teachers of English hated my guts because I spoke much better English than they did. Accent-wise in particular. 🤣 Ay do not have ze Frrench a-ksent… It was fun.
                I made a note of those sites. I’ll see whether they have options that might interest me.
                “Good Dayy” 😉

                Liked by 1 person

              2. Ah well the French seem to be the exception in regard to my previous comment on the Europeans being good at languages. After all the Olympics and Eurovision still has to have French translations – even the Germans cope without that…..
                A little bit of French snobbery perhaps????
                Good dayy…. well we would nomally say G’day. Australians shorten everything. It must be the heat, it takes all our energy and we are so casual about languages.

                Liked by 1 person

              3. It is probably a part snobbery. PLus the fact that french up to the end of the 19th century was the language of higher class the world over. Plus typical French Idiosyncracy: English is only taught in secondary school and almost exclusively by French teachers. Unions. So they may be very good in vocabulary, grammar, English lit, but ze verry “teechars” have a lousy accent…
                G’day now. 😉

                Liked by 1 person

              1. I gather that tusen, tusind mean ‘thousand’? (yeah!)
                mycket could be much? Så? (Found the key!) no idea.
                German would go Danke (thank) schön (nice, nicelyO or Viel (a lot, much, many) Dank. There probably is a Sandinavian equivalent? In Dutch it is Dank U (U=formal you) or dankje (je=informal you, between friends)

                Liked by 1 person

              2. Tusind/tusen is exactly that – thousand. So a thousand thanks or thank (you) very much. Viel – would have the equivalent in Scandi languages as veldig! Pretty similar. Så is simply so… Takk så mycket – thanks so much. No wonder Scandis are so good at other European languages. The common roots.
                Someone told me that Dutch sounds like Danish German and French combined, and perhaps that is so.

                Liked by 1 person

              3. Sååååååå. 😉 yes, many common roots. Dutch was in fact a germanic dialect until late. Then pronunciation kicks in the g is pronounced like the Spanish J. Maybe as a result of the Spanish invasion. “Så” ‘dag’ (Day, or tag) is pronounced like the Arabic Kh… Complicated…
                Now Dutch also has a lot of French vocabulary, as french was the Dutch elite’s favourite language at one time.
                Love those chats. Cheers.

                Liked by 1 person

              4. Yes indeed. Linguistics is fun. Ypu mentioned two things about Dutch. G pronounced as j..same in Scandinavian and så like Arabic kh. Så in Norwegian is sometimes pronounced as shaw as in the word shawl; and then in swedish the kj sounds which is like a whistled q sound in Norwegian a sha sound. Similar but different. Interesring how French was absorbed into Dutch. And as I think we have spoken about before: The Frisians in North Netherlands where the dialect is much more like Scandinavian than Dutch.

                Liked by 1 person

              5. Actually, I meant så in lieu of ‘so’. The J sound in Sapnish is similar to guttural sounds in Arabic. Probably comes from the Arabic presence in Spain for centuries.
                Yes ‘Ssss’ is often transformed into shhh. Some regions of France used to pronounce sss as shhh.
                Yes, you mentioned frisians… Accents and pronunciations start in the family. Children tend to adopt their parents voices, vocabulary and accents. The farther away you go form the family to the border, the farther away the speech patterns…

                Liked by 1 person

              6. Yes they would naturally adopt their parent’s voices until they get to school, don’t you think? Then peer pressure and the influence of being with other children also changes their accents?

                Liked by 1 person

              7. Of course. Though the voice you learn before 4 stays with you. Now when I talk on the phone to my eldest brother it startling. Sometimes I feel I’m listening to my father…
                Outside the immediate circle? When I’m with Americans I speak “Murrican”. With Brits? I can probably outposh the best of them…
                Need to travel Down under to pick up the local style… Though I must confess “kiwis” have been the hardest for me to understand…

                Liked by 1 person

              8. G’day mate! It is only said when first meeting and not on leaving – when we depart a location or person we would say: ‘see ya’, or ‘catch ya later’ or even ‘take care’. Very informal and casual. The odd ‘bye’ but I would rarely if ever hear someone say the full word, ‘Goodbye.’ In Australia, that would seem quite stilted and unusual.
                I didn’t know that four years was a significant age. Sounds like you can get your ear around most accents. But the Kiwis…. it is quite an effeminate accent, I think. The accent that I can’t understand is the Scottish brogue or occasionally an Irishman – I have to really concentrate even though they are speaking my language. Aural language skills are more difficult than the skills necessary for deciphering the written word in a foreign language.

                Liked by 1 person

              9. Like I said, accents are fascinating. I went to Grad school in the South of the US. “Alabamer”. I was already bilingual, but “Ah swear”, first three weeks, Ah couldn’t unnershtand a word they saiiid. Lord, Lord!” A different language. Then I learnt it.
                As for 4 years, they are critical for a child’s development, when they learn all major skills. But most people don’t have memories of anything before the age of 4. Freud had his views on the matter.

                Liked by 2 people

  1. I have a small bowl with a lid painted in this style. It was given to me by my Norwegian penfriend when I was maybe 12 or 13, so it’s probably regarded as vintage now. It’s quite beautiful and I treasure it. It doesn’t have a saying on it though.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. This is fascinating, Amanda! These are beautiful – and to think they contain wisdom & well-wishes of the artist.

    My favourite is “On the road between the homes of friends, grass does not grow” – so poetic!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Ah you see the connection, Derrick. Yes each region of the world has its own version of folk art. Norway’s is Rosemaling. Germany has Bauernmalerei and England: Barge or Canal Boat Art.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Like Derrick I spotted the similarities with our narrowboat barge art, but that doesn’t have the sayings. My favourite is ‘On the road between the homes of friends, grass does not grow’

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you, Dorothy. That saying about no grass growing between the road between friends seems to be the most popular saying amongst readers. I suppose we can all relate to it and it would be fitting to have on a serving bowl or furniture piece, I think.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. The colours are so vibrant & the patterns so sweet, I love the language. There is no grass on the path between the house & the chook pen or the horses paddock, lol, does that count. haha. Have a wonderful day my friend.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. As you well aware that I have always loved Rosemaling. I began loving it seeing it on some of the city homes in Germany. I love those old buildings and the architecture. My favorite of your quotes is “Age comes not alone; it brings so much with it.” I so agree. I would never go back to my younger years.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That is true, Marlene. Age is not always fun, but the emotional pain of my younger years makes me agree with you 100%.
      Another benefit of growing up in Germany – being exposed to those artisitic and historic influences.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I love the beautiful artwork and the proverbial sayings-My favourite was the one of’On the roads between the homes of friends, the grass does not grow’. I think it is a perfect way of portraying just what a good friendship looks like.Thank you.


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