Carl Gustaf Hellqvist, Valdemar Atterdag Holding Visby to Ransom, 1361 — 1882
A little to the left of the picture’s center we can see a side view of a sculpture of the crucified Christ — a symbolic counterpoint to the sufferings of the townspeople at the hands of the invading army of Valdemar Atterdag. Attached to the back of the Crucifixion monument is a plaque representing the coat of arms of the town: a goat suffering the same fate as the lamb of Christ:
Hellqvist gives us the story of the Danish King Valdemar Atterdag’s invasion and conquest of the Swedish city of Visby on the island of Gotland.After occupying the conquered town, Atterdag demanded that its citizens fill three large beer casks with gold. If they refused, he promised to burn the city to the ground. The citizens complied, and filled the casks in less than a day.
In the center of the painting, surrounded by the frantic scurrying of the townspeople, the mayor of Visby is seen clenching his hands in impotent fury. His wife, carrying their baby, raises her eyes to heaven.
Though despised by his enemies, especially the Swedes and Norwegians, many Danes admitted Atterdag’s professed attempt to recapture lands lost to his country over time, and to reestablish the Danes as a major power in Europe.