ABSTRACT FOR “III SYMPOSIUM OF SAHN: THE HISTORIOGRAPHY OF SWEDISH ARCHITECTURE.”
More than meets the eye. Castles and manor houses in Sweden revisited.
The landmark book series Slott och herresäten i Sverige (transl. Castles and Manor Houses in Sweden), published in 1966—1971 by Allhems förlag, is still today considered the most important and all-encompassing art historical reference work on Swedish manors and country houses, including the Royal Palaces and a number of state owned residences and castles. The 18 volumes seem to present a near complete picture of the nation’s rich heritage of landed estates and regal residences, combining the comprehensive and topographically organized guide book for the broader public with the thoroughness of the illustrated architectural monograph. Neither the encyclopaedic format nor the gigantic effort has been attempted again.
This paper will address the more problematic aspects of the book series, its critical role in the writing of a Swedish architectural history and in shaping a national country house narrative. While each volume provides an authoritative and concise overview of the history, ownership and stylistic development of the most significant manor buildings in the province – their architecture, interiors, gardens and collections – the presentation with its general descriptions, formal analysis and neutral tone omits a more in depth analysis of these complex environments as well as underlying social and economic aspects. While focusing attention more on the surface, “highlights”, and on individual buildings rather than larger groups, the descriptions have, in a sense, been working against the depth of historical understanding and the identification of more complex networks. As a consequence, the Swedish manor house is presented as a unique and self-contained “treasure house”, with the international perspectives and broader European context very seldom present in the characterizations.
Rebecka Millhagen. M.A., PhD-candidate, Department of Art History
Rebecka Millhagen, doktorand
Engelska parken, Humanistiskt centrum