Christmas at The Norwegian Museum of Cultural History

Folkemuseet
A few weeks before Christmas I visited Norsk Folkemuseum (The Norwegian Museum of Cultural History.) It is largely an open air museum consisting of buildings dating from the 15th-20th century; small pre-18th century wooden houses once occupied by peasants, a Stave Church, a 19th century school, a mid-century shop and a block of flats decorated in the style of the 1870s, the early 1900s and the 1960s. My favourite part of the museum are the 18th century homes of the middling sorts, as I always enjoy having a look at how Norwegian people lived in the era I am so familiar with from a British and French perspective. Being outdoors the museum is obviously freezing in winter, although when it snows it is so very picturesque and it always gives me the impression that I have been transported into an early 20th century Christmas card.

Folkemuseet
As I was unable to locate a santa hat (I was feeling festive), I wrapped myself in a bright red shawl and although my mother claimed I would be the person wearing the loudest headdress at the museum, I sadly lost to two little boys were wearing Angry Birds-hats.

Folkemuseet
Folkemuseet
Folkemuseet
Some of the homes were decorated for Christmas; above is a Finish peasant home c.1885.

Folkemuseet
Folkemuseet
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The home of the merchant brothers Chrystie, built in 1761, which I had never looked inside before. Sadly the ballroom on the first floor wasn’t open to visitors!

Folkemuseet
Folkemuseet
It was such a lovely outing and we stayed until dusk, although I knew I’d be back already the same week to catch the 1814 exhibition. There are quite a few exhibitions on this year to mark the bicentenary of the Norwegian constitution of 1814, so keep reading, as I will certainly write about the ones I am able to attend (hopefully all!)

A picturesque swim by an eighteenth-century bathing house

Oslosommer
When my family went back to Oslo after their London-trip I traveled with them, trading sweltering libraries for a (for once!) glorious Norwegian summer. I really cannot remember the last time I experienced such a lovely summer, with just the right amount of both adventure and garden-lounging.

stubbeljan
To me, summer hasn’t really begun until I go for a swim at Hvervenbukta. The area was once the location of an 18th century country house which was destroyed in a fire in 1913, but the beach pavilion from the 1770s still exists. The above drawing was done by Peter Frederik Wergmann (1802–1869.)

Oslosommer
Here’s me looking suitably excited about our first outing. Also, purple is my favourite colour, if you were wondering.

Oslosommer
Normally I shun crowded beaches, but oh, what doesn’t one endure to admire an historical beach house.

Oslosommer
My swimming sunglasses (cheap Top Shop ones, so it doesn’t matter if they fall off my face) and one of my all time favourite novels and a perfect summer read, Fanny Hill.

Windsor Castle, female accomplishments & a broken fan

Windsor
On Bastille Day I went to Windsor with my family and got horribly sunburnt. It was probably a fair punishment for not celebrating in an appropriately revolutionary manner. It was the first time any of us had been to Windsor and we spent most of the day inside the State Apartments.

Windsor
Upon our arrival I was taken aback by this sign, as I had no idea these two ever stayed at Windsor, despite me being quite besotted with both of them. Mrs Delany was an artist and lady of letters with exceptional botanical knowledge. She individually cut out pieces of flowers from paper to compose botanically accurate flowers, and some of these are currently on display in the Enlightenment Room at the British Museum.

What I love about Delany is that she kept within the borders of ‘womanly behaviour’ throughout her life, and that although her interest was paper art (as was fashionable among genteel women in the 18th century), she managed to make it intellectual, although such ‘female accomplishments’ have often been dismissed by historians. In reality women’s ‘accomplishments’ were widely discussed in the 18th century and no final consensus was decided upon. Since women could not become professionals they had to remain amateurs and that word has predominantly negative connotations today. Whenever someone is described as an amateur today, it usually means that this person’s attempts are inferior or of a bad quality, whereas in the 18th century it simply meant not-professional. (Further reading: Amanda Vickery’s Behind Closed Doors: At Home In Georgian England. The chapter called “What Women Made” is specifically concerned with female accomplishments. She also did a great BBC documentary which is brilliant.)

WindsorWindsor
Windsor
Windsor
Windsor
Since this summer was sweltering hot I kept a fan on me at all times. I got this one in Versailles years ago and it served me well until I managed to break it during this trip.

Windsor
We gawped at this with misty eyes for the better part of half an hour after spotting once inside the castle. I really wasn’t prepared for the immense amount of objects on display in the State Apartments: gilded swords from a multitude of centuries and so many ‘souvenirs’ from the golden age of the British Empire.

Windsor
A beautiful garden I could loose myself in for hours.

Windsor
Windsor
Windsor
After a long and insanely hot day we caught the train back to London and had supper at Richoux in Picadilly.

Adventures in Chelsea, part I: Leighton House Museum

Leighton House Museum
Leighton House Museum
Leighton House MuseumLeighton House MuseumLeighton House Museum
Some time ago when the weather was particularly nice, we dragged ourselves across town, from the dirty but familiar East End to the Holland Park district. The object of the trip was to visit the Leighton House Museum where the Victorian painter Lord Frederic Leighton lived and worked.

Leighton House Museum
The main hall was inspired by the myth of Narcissus (and aptly named the Narcissus Hall.) The walls are covered in blue tiles (symbolising water) and the ceiling is gilded to signify how Narcissus fell in love with his own reflection and drowned. It was inspired by a Narcissus “themed” room found during the excavation of Pompeii in 1740s, as Leighton was very interested in ancient Rome.

Leighton House Museum
The Arab Hall, which Leighton commissioned to show off his extensive collection of 17th century Syrian tiles, and one corner of the studio.

Leighton House Museum
The dining room, decorated with Mediterranean and Middle Eastern ceramics, and an amazing little, oriental nook with an Egyptian latticework window, looking down on the Arab Hall. The latter immediately set my head spinning – it makes for so many marvellous decorating ideas, doesn’t it? I was very reluctant to leave and as always I found myself wishing that the museum worked like Ikea, so that I could pick up a flat-packed version of various pieces furniture at the end of the tour and take it home with me.

Leighton House Museum
The Silk Room, with paintings by Tintoretto and Millais.

Leighton House MuseumLeighton House Museum
The studio.

Leighton House Museum
Another part of the studio: peacock feathers below Leighton’s painting Corinna of Tanagra from 1893. Such a splendid neoclassical frame as well!

Leighton House Museum
We stayed until closing time (hardly a testament to our enthusiasm but rather because we arrived late in the day) and then headed to Holland Park, as it is apparently one of the prettiest parks in London, complete with peacocks wandering about – but that will be the subject of my next post.

Jane Austen relatert eskapade no. 1

Det siste halvåret har jeg dratt på flere Jane Austen relaterte eskapader i England. For et par måneder siden fikk jeg besøk fra Norge (hei, Sophie!) og vi dro til Austens hus i Chawton. Huset er bygget på 1600-tallet og var det nest siste huset hun bodde i (hun døde i Winchester og bodde i løpet av sitt liv i Hampshire, Southampton og Bath) sammen med moren og søsteren, som begge het Cassandra.

Vi kom oss med tog fra London til Alton, en liten og mindre sjarmerende landsby og bestemte oss for å gå til fots fra togstasjonen til Chawton. Austen selv måtte gå til fots eller benytte seg av esel-vognen hun delte med søsteren, så vi tenkte vi ikke kunne være dårligere og dessuten gjerne ville teste avstanden.

Høydepunktet av besøket var å se Austens skrivebord (egentlig et tebord) og dessuten alle objektene tilknyttet to av brødrene hennes, Francis og Charles, som begge tjenestegjorde i marinen under Napoleonskrigene. Francis var en del av Lord Nelsons flåte i Middelhavet, deltok i slaget ved Nilen, men gikk glipp av Trafalgar fordi han hentet forsyninger til den Britiske flåten på det tidspunktet. Chawton Cottage var i det hele tatt mye større enn vi hadde trodd og museumsamlingen var imponerende: det var en god blanding av private eiendeler som smykker (flere sørgesmykker med hårlokker!) og skrin, tidsriktige møbler, reproduksjoner og et lappeteppe Jane, Cassandra og moren hadde laget. Det hang en imponerende samling originalillustrasjoner av Hugh Thompson (fra 1890-tallet) fra alle Austen-romanene, samt et brev som kalte Francis til St. James’ Palace for å motta Order of the Bath, og brevet Cassandra skrev til niesen Fanny da Jane Austen døde. I et monter var også en av Austen’s hårlokker bevart og i et annet lå litt av Mr. Austen’s hår.

Etter å ha spist en pub-lunsj trasket vi opp hovedveien til herskapshuset der Austens bror Edward bodde med sin familie og kirken der Cassandra og Mrs. Austen ligger begravet.