hand-painted decoration in historic houses

16th-century painted panelling depicting a stag hunt now in the castle museum in Malmö

Hand-painted decoration of many types has been used in the interiors of buildings in the region for centuries. Extensive works from the late middle ages survive in churches but various combinations of painted scenes with figures, floral and foliage decoration, panelling and woodwork painted to imitate marble or paint used to transform pine to look like expensive exotic timbers are all found and at very different social levels from small farmhouses constructed in wood in Norway through to manor houses and the grandest of palaces in Copenhagen and Stockholm. 

The Blue Chamber in the Mayor's House now in Den Gamle By, Århus

Good, well-restored examples can be seen in the collections of saved and reconstructed vernacular buildings in the open-air museums at Den Gamle By in Århus, Frilandsmuseet, north of Copenhagen, in the Norsk Folkemuseum in Oslo, in Kulturen, the museum in Lund, and in Skansen, the open air museum in Stockholm. Many privately owned houses throughout Norway, Sweden and Denmark have surviving painted schemes but the open air museums give easy access and the chance to look at and compare designs and techniques from different periods and most of the museums have displays with information about the paint used, often with a base of linseed oil, and the pigments used for the colours which are often strong and often surprisingly deep and dark.

Scenes with figures can be incredibly naive or amazingly sophisticated but are invariably a rich resource for details of costume and life style.

Interior of a house from Rømo on the North Sea coast now in Frilandsmuseet
An 18th-century scheme of decoration now in Den Gamle By, Århus

Recommended books:

Kirsti Brekke, Det var en gang en hallingstue ... Fra folkestue til antikvitet, Bastion forlag (2012)

Lars Sjöberg, Classic Swedish Interiors, Frances Lincoln Limited (2010)