• Eggert-og-Bjarni--8a

Icelandic Gabled Farmhouse with Outbuildings

Hans Liunge 1758

120 illustrations were made following the research expeditions of Eggert Ólafsson and Bjarni Pálsson who travelled all over Iceland around the mid-18 th century. The illustrations are mostly watercolours of natural phenomena such as birds, fish, rocks and vegetation but a few from the series depict social settings. This one is of an Icelandic farm. In their text, the authors refer to the descriptions of a medium sized farm. Few illustrations of Icelandic buildings are extant but a number of assessment reports of buildings are quite common. Such a clear painting is therefore a very important source of these buildings' appearance. This might be the oldest extant image of a gabled turf farmhouse but in the Middle Ages, and long thereafter, the farms' facades were situated differently.

The front door was situated on the central gable and within the entrance was the passage into the baðstofa (communal room) that lay transverse at the back of the house. The communal room was a bedroom as well as a work room where people would do wool work, needlework, etc. Between the communal room and the front of the house was a pantry and a kitchen with an open fire. It is likely that on one side of the central gable there was a living room for guests and a door would lead directly into that room. The gable on the other side might very well have been an open space, mostly used as sleeping quarters for workers at the time. The farmyard had a shed for drying and probably a storehouse next to the farm.

The person in the doorway is probably the housewife, wearing a blue skirt with a red apron and a krókfaldur (an Icelandic traditional curved hat). Travellers, children and a dog can be seen in the farmyard and a little further away are people haying. A boathouse and boats going out to sea can be seen at the shore. The outbuildings are behind the farmhouse, probably a sheepshed, cowshed and outdoor mangers but barns were uncommon at the time. Hot springs can be seen in the distance, access to hot water being a luxurious commodity at the time. The painting also depicts some other features of the Icelandic nature such as glaciers, waterfalls and even a little red lava can be seen flowing from the cliffs so clearly no glamorous detail was spared.


Þjms EÓ-8

The National Museum of Iceland