Decorated Farmhouses of Hälsingland

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Halsingland is a small province in central Sweden, bordering the Gulf of Bothnia, where a large number of highly decorated wooden farmhouses are located. These 19th century farmhouses are examples of traditional Swedish construction technique in the old farmer’s society in Hälsingland and reflect the peak of prosperity for farming and the social status of the farmers of the region. The uniqueness of these farms lie in the farmer’s ambition to build big. Nowhere in the world is such a collection of large farms as in Hälsingland.

The 18th and 19th centuries were prosperous for the farmers of Hälsingland. Blessed by the long fertile valleys within the Taiga forest landscape, the independent farmers started using their abundant wealth to build substantial new homes with elaborately decorated ancillary houses. Often the farmers would build more than one dwellings, sometimes housing several generations. The well-constructed dwelling houses, often lavishly designed with profiled roof-bases, elegantly profiled joinery work around windows and beautifully decorated doorways, mainly represent the construction style of the 19th century. For periods of time each parish had their own style of constructing, mainly shown in the lavish front porches and otherwise elaborate entrances.

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The insides were elegantly decorated by commissioned artists from Hälsingland or from neighbouring Dalarna to reflect the owner’s social status. These decorated houses combine local building and local folk art traditions in a highly distinctive way that can be seen in the form of art painted on the walls, stencilled wall decorations, and expensive wallpaper.

A particularly distinctive feature of the farmhouses is the provision of either a separate house, a Herrstuga, or rooms in the main house, set aside for festivities, special occasions or assemblies, and hardly used for the rest of the year. These rooms were usually the most highly decorated in the farmstead. Decoration consists of canvas or textile paintings affixed to the walls, or paintings directly onto the wooden ceilings or walls. The subjects were often biblical but with the people depicted in the latest fashions of the time. The painting style can be seen as a fusion of popular art and contemporary landed-gentry styles, such as Baroque, Rococo or “le style gustavien”.

Today there are around one thousand farmhouses of Hälsingland preserved in the province, all with their own story to tell. Seven of them have been nominated to UNESCOS list of World Heritage.

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Sources: Wikipedia, UNESCO, Hälsingegårdar

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