Friday, 28 August 2009

New books: Oscarshall Palace

Oscarshall, the neo-Gothic pleasure palace at Bygdøy in Oslo which was built on the orders of King Oscar I and Queen Josephina in 1847-1852, reopened to the public two days ago after four years of renovation works. To coincide with the reopening, Cappelen Damm has published a short new book on the palace. Titled simply Oscarshall, it is written by Nina E. Høye, an art historian who has earlier written a guide book to the Royal Palace, where she is in charge of the guiding service.
The book is lavishly illustrated, mostly with photos of the interiors as they now appear after the restoration, but also with some historical images. The book starts with the background, the building process and the architectural context, continues on through the park and the smaller buildings on the estate, before dealing with the palace itself and its interiors room by room. At the end there is a chapter which briefly sums up the history of Oscarshall since it was completed in 1852.
The book is an easy read and well written, and although some names are spelt wrongly it is without the factual mistakes which somewhat clouded the author’s otherwise excellent earlier book on the Royal Palace. There are some topics which one feels could be dealt with more extensively, but given the limited space accorded to the author in this book of 93 pages it is understandable that not everything can be covered as thoroughly and she has done a good job in at least touching on most of the relevant aspects of this palace.
A more extensive book by Gunnar Hjelde was published in 1978. What this new book adds is mainly a thorough description of the recent renovation and some of the new knowledge resulting from this process. It is also more detailed on the building process in 1847-1852 and the conflict between the architect, Johan Henrik Nebelong, and the head of the Royal Court, Ferdinand Wedel Jarlsberg, but this story was also told by Poul J. Neubert in an article on Oscarshall in the Danish yearbook Archictectura in 2006, so it is not really new for this book.

From the publisher’s website:

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