Tuesday, 2 June 2009

What to see: Gunnebo Palace, Mölndal

Situated in Mölndal just outside Gothenburg, Gunnebo Palace is perhaps the most beautiful neoclassical villa in Sweden. Although it is a villa of some 1,000 square metres it is commonly referred to as a palace, a word which was first used to describe it by the famous sculptor Johan Tobias Sergel.
Gunnebo was built as the country house of the wealthy merchant John Hall the Elder (1735-1802) and his wife Christina (1749-1825). In the winter they lived in a town house at Gothenburg’s Sillgatan, which is now long gone (the street was later renamed Postgatan and even later incorporated into the huge shopping mall Nordstan).
The architect was Carl Wilhelm Carlberg (1746-1814), who had just returned from a five-year educational trip to Italy, France and Britain when he was given the commission in 1782. To put it simply he created an Italianate villa with French gardens set in an English landscape park, but the house also has traces of the British brand of neoclassicism.
The villa was completed in 1796 and was much admired, as it continues to be. “He has taken a beautiful part of the mountains of Italy and placed it at Gunnebo”, Sergel wrote. “[…] The building is charming in every respect. He has with considerable skill made use of the terrain. The architecture is pure poetry. […] Since seeing Gunnebo, my admiration for Carlberg is boundless”.
In addition to Sergel Gunnebo has received many famous visitors. King Gustaf III was among the earliest visitors, and later came Mary Wollstonecraft and Louis XVI’s only surviving child, Marie-Thérèse, Duchess of Angoulême. Francisco de Miranda, the South American freedom fighter, visited in 1787 and had a passionate affair with Christina Hall – it was later said that he chose the colours yellow, blue and red for the Venezuelan flag in memory of the colours of Mrs Hall’s hair, eyes and lips. A small note is attached to a chair in which the Nobel Laureate Selma Lagerlöf sat, while the guides do not point out the chair used by US President George W. Bush when he met Sweden’s then Prime Minister Göran Persson at Gunnebo in connection with the EU summit in Gothenburg in 2001.
John Hall the Elder did not get the chance to enjoy Gunnebo for a long time after it was completed. He died six years later, in 1802. He lay in state at the Gustavi Cathedral in Gothenburg awaiting his magnificent funeral when a great city fire broke out. Both the Cathedral and the body of John Hall perished in the fire.
His only son, John Hall the Younger, had not inherited his father’s knack for business and had to sell Gunnebo when he went into bankruptcy. He ended his life as a beggar on the streets of Stockholm, where he froze to death in 1830. The last private owners of the estate were Carl and Hilda Sparre, and following Baroness Sparre’s death in 1948 Gunnebo was sold to the municipality of Mölndal. Today it is a listed building which is open to visitors throughout the year. Its website can be found at: http://www.gunneboslott.se/

1 comment:

  1. I would like to buy a high-quality image file of your photo of the interior of Gunnebo Palace (the ballroom windows - second photograph on the blog page. My wife would like to use it to decorate a wall in our home. I am a journalist and photographer in New York, and often visit Sweden!
    Could you let me know if you would be willing to sell me a copy of the image for this single use? It would be a wall mural of approximately 2.5x5 meters.
    Mike Offit, NYC
    mikeoffit@hotmail.com or mikeoffit@gmail.com


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