The high point of my visit to the new Nasjonalmuseet in Oslo in June was viewing an object I know well, the Baldisholteppet, a Norwegian tapestry from the late 1100s. I’ve seen photos galore, and was part of a team that curated an exhibit in 2020, The Baldishol: A Medieval Tapestry Inspires Contemporary Textiles ( https://norwegiantextileletter.com/baldishol-norway-house-exhibit-2020/). I last saw the Baldishol in person when it hung in the former Kunstindustrimuseet building. As I remember, it hung in a spot where it was difficult to examine closely. My friend Lisa Torvik also remembered it being in a very dark spot and hard to make it out under glass.
In the new museum, Norway’s national tapestry treasure is featured in the first gallery. This short film from the Nasjonalmuseet gives background on the tapestry. Also see this clip from the longer virtual tour posted by the museum.
The tapestry is known for its beautiful color, still vibrant after many centuries, and for its intriguing design depicting two months of the year.
What I had forgotten from the first time I saw it, or maybe never fully appreciated, was the absolute beauty of the weaving technique. In billedvev (translated as picture-weaving), Norway’s tapestry technique, a variety of dove-tailed joins are used where colors come together on the vertical warp threads. The joins are not easy to weave beautifully on shallow angles, and especially when there is outline around a shape. I’ve seen several replicas of the Baldishol Tapestry with less-than perfect technique. “Oh, this is the right way!” was my reaction as soon as I stepped up to the tapestry case.
Here are some more detail shots to admire.
There are several other historical tapestries to admire in the initial galleries, and a number of more modern tapestries throughout the museum. I wrote about Frida Hansen’s transparent tapestry here: “Amazing Daisies (Frida Hansen’s Margariter).” https://robbielafleur.com/2023/07/01/amazing-daisies-frida-hansens-margariter/ Hansen’s tapestry, “Jeffta’s Datter,” was great to see but difficult to photograph under glass. You can see it on the Nasjonalmuseet site here: https://www.nasjonalmuseet.no/samlingen/objekt/NMK.2009.0192.
Tove Pedersen’s 1972 tapestry, Sunday Afternoon, was in a contemporary gallery.
It’s pretty remarkable. The “hairiness” of the pile and the expressive features of the couple add to its sensual feeling.
In a nearby room is Synnøve Anker Aurdal’s Magic Moon from 1967.
The shimmery quality of the moon is enhanced with metallic thread.
These are only a handful of the many textiles on view in the Nasjonalmuseet, and the museum has a deep collection of textiles in storage, too. If you search for billedvev (tapestry) in their collections database, you come up with 375 works. (Here’s the search: https://www.nasjonalmuseet.no/samlingen/sok/?query=billedvev)
I hope to have more time to wander through the museum on my next visit, and not just for the textiles. Your visit won’t be complete without this!