Unveiling Bergen’s Silver Splendor: A Journey Through Time at MFAH

February 14, 2024

Ornate silver and silver-gilt bridal crown from the Christen Sveaas Collection, dating between 1590–1610.

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH) is thrilled to unveil Crowning the North: Silver Treasures from Bergen, Norway, a landmark exhibition showcasing the intricate tapestry of Norwegian silversmithing from the Renaissance to the dawn of the 20th century. This exquisite collection will be on display from February 11 through May 5, 2024, offering a rare glimpse into the artistry that flourished in one of Scandinavia's most significant historical trading hubs.

Highlight: Johan Helmich Hoff’s ‘Silver Maiden Beaker’ (1782), crafted from silver and silver-gilt – a Kode Bergen Art Museum treasure.

The Essence of Norwegian Silver Artistry

Nestled amidst the fjords, Bergen has long been more than just a scenic locale; it's a historical epicenter of commerce and craftsmanship. The exhibition brings to light over 200 masterpieces on loan from Norway, ranging from daily utensils to extraordinary ceremonial adornments, each piece narrating a story of cultural pride and exquisite craftsmanship.

Bergen's Trade and Silver Craft: A Historical Perspective

Bergen's ascent as a pivotal maritime and trading city significantly influenced the evolution of silver craftsmanship in the region. The inflow of wealth, coupled with Bergen's strategic position on the trade routes, attracted skilled craftsmen and fostered a vibrant environment for the arts. This exhibition not only showcases the physical beauty of silver artifacts but also delves into the historical context, revealing how Bergen's thriving trade from the 16th century onwards played a crucial role in shaping the unique Norwegian silver craft tradition.

'Bridal Crown,' 1590–1610, silver and silver- gilt, Christen Sveaas Collection.

A Chronicle of Artistry and Adaptation

The artifacts on display chart the course of silver artistry in Bergen against the backdrop of shifting European tastes and the socio-political landscape. From the influence of the Renaissance to the national romanticism of the 19th century, which saw a revival of Viking and medieval themes, the exhibition encapsulates the adaptive nature of Norwegian craftsmanship through turbulent times.

Marius Hammer, Viking Dragon Boat, c. 1900, silver and enamel, Kode Bergen Art Museum, Bergen Silver Foundation, photo: Dag Fosse, Kode Bergen Art Museum.

Masterpieces Unveiled

Prominent among the exhibition are pieces by revered Bergen goldsmiths like Jan Reimers and Marius Hammer, whose works represent the zenith of Norwegian silver art. The exhibit also highlights the significant role played by the Goldsmith's Guild in Bergen, underscoring the collective effort that propelled the city's renown in silver craftsmanship.

Engaging with the Silver Legacy

Enhance your visit with our insightful lecture series and the intimate ‘Tour & Toast’ events, designed to deepen your understanding of the exhibition. The series provides an intimate setting to appreciate the artifacts' craftsmanship and historical context, fostering a deeper connection with the art.

Hans Gude and Adolph Tidemand, Bridal Procession on the Hardangerfjord, 1848, oil on canvas, National Museum, Oslo, Norway.

A Celebration of Nordic Elegance

In tandem with the exhibition, the MFA Shop presents a selection of items that celebrate the Nordic tradition, from handcrafted jewelry to literature that explores the intricate web of Nordic design and culture, offering visitors a piece of this rich heritage to take home.

Thanks to a vibrant collaboration with Kode Bergen Art Museum, Norway, this exhibition brings a slice of Norwegian cultural heritage to Houston's heart.

Delving Deeper into Bergen's Silver Saga

Crowning the North: Silver Treasures from Bergen, Norway offers more than just an exhibition; it's an immersive journey into the heart of Norwegian craftsmanship, enriched by the historical significance of silver in Norwegian culture and Bergen's pivotal role in the broader narrative of global trade and artistry. We invite you to the MFAH to personally explore this unparalleled collection and delve into the rich tapestry of Nordic silver craftsmanship.