A SCANDINAVIAN SOJOURN

It came about that my daughter was to attend a tech conference in Stockholm and she suggested that I might like to tag along to revisit a few old haunts.  I was just delighted and we decided to add on a few days in Copenhagen beforehand as well.   Having lived in Stockholm for 3 years until 2014, I was glad to have a chance to recharge those Scandi vibes which always make me feel wonderfully clean and inspired and this little trip provided plenty of opportunities to find this again.

As my daughter had never visited Denmark before we happily spent a few days doing the tourist thing.   The famous harbour Nyhaven in Copenhagen was simply glorious in the sunshine.

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The little mermaid of course was as demure as ever....

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One of the things on our list was a visit to the Glyptoteket, a gallery with a special exhibition featuring french art being the star attraction.   Seeing Degas' ballerina was something special and since I have been taking a ceramics class, sculpture of any kind has a new meaning for me.  This is mixed media from way back, but she has a grace and a charm that is just so serene. The story though is rather strange and interesting.  Edgar Degas made the original sculpture from wax, which was apparently rather unusual in 1880 when it was begun and sounds extremely difficult.   This was then dressed in a fabric bodice and ballet slippers and adorned with a real hair wig, ribbon and tutu.   When it was first exhibited, viewers were amazed by how lifelike it looked.    Extraordinarily, it wasn't cast in bronze until after his death (1917) when 28 statues were made.  The tutu's and ribbons vary on the various versions which are on show around the world.   It is an absolutely charming figure, with all the cheekiness and flirtatiousness of a modern day teenage selfie and although I have seen one before in Paris, it isn't something you would get tired of easily.   I thought I had captured a lovely shot of her, but I do think the painting the background seems rather misplaced - she seems to be almost daring the old man in the painting to look up her skirt!!!!!

 Degas' ballerina

Degas' ballerina

The Glypoteket is a large gallery/museum and well worth a visit if you should be in Copenhagen.  It houses the art collection of Carl Jacobsen (1842-1914) whose fortune derived from his fathers brewery - Carlsberg.  According to the blurb - the building is Venetian Renaissance in style, but for me it felt much more along the lines of the late 19th century Kensington museum constructions - a monumental victorian endeavour to house the passions of the day, collecting and travel.  Jacobsen amassed an impressive collection of not just danish art but ancient sculptures and french works too.   In the centre of the building around which the various galleries are situated is an absolutely wonderful winter garden, in which you can have tea and reflect on what you have seen and are about to see.

 The winter garden at the Glyptoteket

The winter garden at the Glyptoteket

The Glyptoteket houses a wonderful collection of all sorts of ancient artefacts and paintings, but one thing I really loved were the mosaic floors, each room having a different pattern.  This one was my favourite - definitely some inspiration there I think.

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Whilst in the Danish Capital, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to catch up with my friend Kristina, whom I knew in Stockholm but has now returned to her native Copenhagen.  She suggested that I might like to see the Queen's tapestries - this was something of a surprise to me - I had no idea what they were and I was certainly in for a treat.  Housed in the Christiansborg palace, which seemed to be primarily a sort of ceremonial building, they are an extraordinary collection of enormous tapestries presented to the Danish Queen Margarethe.  They were commissioned by a group of Danish businesses as a gift for her 50th birthday, but took the famous Gobelin establishment in France, 10 years to produce and were eventually hung in time for the Queen's 60th birthday.  I should say they were worth the wait.    

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The original sketches depicting 1000 years of Danish history in the wider context of the world stage, were done by Bjorn Norgaard and are known as the cartoons.   Once woven, they have retained some of this kind of cartoonish flavour, but in an absolutely stunning and very modern way.   Being a textile nut, I have seen alot of ancient tapestries in English and french castles and they are always faded due to age and a masses of greens and browns that isn't always that appealing.  These however, are brightly coloured, extremely busy, fun pieces of art work that when displayed all together are really a sight to behold.  Hardly a stitch is left to background - every inch is packed with information, telling stories of the history of this country.  They are a truly fantastic spectacle and I am not sure my photographs really do them justice.

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There are 17 tapestries in all  and looking at the beautiful quality of the work, it is hardly surprising that they took  30 full time weavers, a decade to complete.  This is just a flavour of this magnificent display.  Even now, looking at the photographs I wonder at how somebody could conceive of so much detail, let along stitch it.  It seems to me that tapestry has for so long been out of fashion, but these panoramic textiles show the power of colour and thread and how they can be used to create a modern effect.  

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This city has a lot to offer the visitor and I have only mentioned a few highlights here.   We left after 5 days to head onwards to Stockholm by train and I felt sad to say goodbye.  Wonderful...wonderful Copenhagen.   

 A little EPP inspiration going on here.....

A little EPP inspiration going on here.....