If you were looking for Swedish rugs, the Swedish Institute in Rome is probably not the first place you would think to look. But founded, constructed and decorated in the 20th century, it is actually a great place to see some of Sweden’s best mid-century weaving.
The Swedish architect Ivar Tengbom made his name designing handsome buildings in a nordic neoclassical style for major Swedish institutions. Towards the end of his career, about 1938, Tengbom was asked to design two other buildings: one, a building to house the Swedish Institute for Classical Studies in Rome and in 1948, a new workshop for the Märta Måås Fjetterström operation in Båstad, on Sweden’s west coast.
Located in the Villa Borghese park at Via Omero 14, the Swedish Institute facilitates the study of the classical world – archaeology, classical studies and art history – by Swedish professors and students. It has a large and handsome library, and can graciously house up to 20 visiting scholars. The institute was founded in 1925 under the auspices of the Swedish prince, Gustaf Adolf, who was himself a professional archaeologist. Many of the directors of the institute have been prominent Swedish archaeologists. The Swedish royal family maintains a commitment to the institute, and the King of Sweden serves as Chairman of the foundation of “Friends” which supports it financially.
The Institute building was set on a rise, and enclosed a small courtyard which itself had a small fountain and sculpture by Carl Milles, renowned Swedish sculptor. The furnishing of the interiors was also meant to represent the best of Swedish design of the time. The team for these included Elsa Gullberg (1886-1984) as general coordinator, Carl Malmsten (1888-1972) as furniture designer, Märta Måås Fjetterström (1873-1941)for carpets, and Maja Sjöström (1868-1961). Sjöström’s role is less clear —was it as supervisor of on-site installation? From 1916-1923, she had designed textiles for Stockholm’s new city hall, including an impressive 19-meter tapestry, and several in brocades woven by Italian textile companies, but after 1926 and up to her death, she was living in Rome,with some designing for Italian textile firms.
The Institute today was furnished much as it was in 1940, despite some minor furniture rearrangement. Recently published color photographs by Swedish photographer Åke Eriksson Lindman, show how well the design of the building and its furnishings have stood the test of time. Many of the MMF rugs appear to be still in place, although there seem to have been one or two new substitutions.The “Rutig” rugs and the library rug are “halv-flossa” rugs, which have hand knotted pile with rölakan or flat woven areas defining the pile sections; the “Skvattan” is called a “relief flossa.”
But about 1940, photographs of the interior were taken by an well-known Italian photographic firm, Vasari. It is interesting to look now at these B&W photos and identify the MMF rugs which were provided for the different rooms. In several cases, color is a question, but if Lindman’s color photographs show original rugs – or if there were replacements and they were made to the original models- then we have a good sense of how the rooms were originally furnished.
The images that follow show the principal rooms of the Institute and identify the rugs in each room. The links that follow several of the archival photographs are to the Lindeman color photographs of these rooms.
- Ante room (that is, off the front hall, and before entering the living room):
2) Sitting room with sofa:
3) Room with desks:
5) Living Room:
To compare Åke Ericsson Lindman recent photograph, Link click here:
Digitaltmuseum, for Arkitektur- och designcentrum, archival photographs of Svenska Institute i Rom
Edlund, Ingrid E. M., entry, “Swedish Institute at Rome” in Encyclopedia of the History of Classical Archeology, by Nancy Thompson de Grummond, (Routledge, 2015)
Frizzle, Barbro Santillo, and Simon Malmberg, “The Swedish Institute of Classical Studies at Rome”, in Encyclopedia of Global Archaeology (Springer 2014), ed, C. Smith, 7181-7183.
Nord, Kristin, “Maja Sjöström tog Rom till Råå,” in Sydsvenskan (Malmo), Culture & Entertainment Skåne section, 6/24/2012 : http://www.sydsvenskan.se/kultur–nojen/maja-sjostrom-tog-rom-till-raa/
http://www.lindemanphotography.com (visited 3/22/16)
Please reference as follows:
Whidden, Anne, “The Swedish Institute in Rome,” theswedishrugblog (March28, 2016);
http:// theswedishrugblog.wordpress.com; accessed (month/day/year)