Historiska museet — A Small But Beautiful Update

I’m very remiss in this.

When I was in Stockholm, I sprinted off one morning to the beautiful Historiska museet to perv at mediæval art—as I do in every city I visit. (If I worked with written contracts, it’d be a line somewhere around Per diems: “Plus n hours free on x half-day(s) for perving at mediæval art museums” (where n = (number of pervable museums * 3) + travel time. I can get through a museum in 90 minutes if I have to, but who’d want to?)

Three of the works didn’t have captions, not so uncommon an occurrence, especially seeing this museum had just had its collection restored. Back in Berlin, I emailed off into oblivion. To be honest, I don’t expect to get a reply when I have to email museums, their average comprehension of social networks and Teh Interwebtubez is sitting around 1998. Not so with Historiska museet!

Woah! They have a new website since last time! OMG! Look. At. It! Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, look at that! … wait! They have a new blog too! (SMB have a quite good archival website, but their website isn’t the easiest to slide around, and as for Twitter… so a new blog is a good start.) OK getting sidetracked here.

The Senior Curator of the Department of Cultural History and Collections emails me not just the names of the three missing works, but details and links and attachments. I’m reading and clicking and … wow. I’m just gonna quote here:

The piece in your photos number 56-60 is the altarpiece from Jonsberg church in the province of Östergötland, dated to 1500-1525 and produced in an Antwerpen workshop; there are more images here: Medeltidens bildvärld, though unfortunately no information in English. Enclosed, you will find some more information in English about this particular piece.

The altarpiece in photograph number 61 is from Vada church in the province of Uppland, probably produced in a workshop active in the Mälar region in the first quarter of the 16th century. The wings are currently displayed in another gallery – the one where you saw the small devotional in photo 69. More pictures here: Medeltidens bldvärld. The heraldic armour of Gunhild Johansdotter (Bese) and her husband Erik Turesson (Bielke) is prominently displayed in the corpus, they were landowning nobility with strong ties to the parish and donated the piece to Vada church.

The third piece – photos 62 & 63 – is from Lofta church in the region of Småland (pictures here: Medeltidens bildvärld). As the piece from Jonsberg, this was produced in an Antwerpen workshop. Towards the end of the 15th century, the Netherlandish altarpieces became increasingly popular, competing with the German workshops. The piece from Lofta has a Marian theme, with the central scene being the death of Mary.

And then there’s the attached pages on the first Jonsberg altar—which is one of the most superb pieces I’ve ever seen, massive, almost 3 metres high and 2 1/2 wide, with 108 figures worked in oak into glorious movement (“…in 13 Passion and childhood scenes, together with 8 lesser tableaux relating to the sacraments of the Church.”)—and I’m reading through when it I come to Adoration of the Magi … Caspar … Melchior—I’m thinking, “I don’t remember an Adoration of the Magi”, so I go to Medeltidens bildvärld and it’s a real Holy Fuck! moment, cos there he is, Balthasar himself. Dunno how I didn’t see him, but added below also. And here’s the text: The Altarpiece from Jonsberg (.pdf), really worth reading.

I’m not sure about mentioning names, but Elisabet Regner, you are amazing! Your museum is beautiful (& I only saw the mediæval stuff), and thank you so much for your detailed answer.