A new home for Norway’s ambassador
The remodeled Ambassador’s Residence in Washington, DC, opens in a festive event
Christine Foster Meloni
The day that Ambassador Aas arrived in Washington, D.C., in 2014, the doors to his official residence were closed. He was quite disappointed as he had been looking forward to moving into one of Norway’s most important homes abroad. He was told that the residence was going to undergo renovations, but he was reassured that it would only be a question of a few months before he could move in.
Two years later, on the evening of April 21, a jubilant ambassador hosted a festive reception to celebrate the reopening of the residence. It had been a long wait but it was worth it.
When the excited guests arrived, they saw the lovely statue of Crown Princess Märtha by Norwegian artist Kirsten Kokkin in its usual place in front of the residence. But many new surprises were awaiting them inside. Norwegian interior decorators had added contemporary touches to complement the more traditional artwork and furniture.
In the luminous entrance hall with its welcoming air, one immediately noticed the very large portrait of King Haakon VII by Brynjulf Strandenæs. During World War II, Haakon lived in London with his son Crown Prince Olav while his daughter-in-law Crown Princess Märtha lived in the residence in Washington with her son Harald, the current king of Norway, and her daughters.
On the next floor, at the top of the lovely spiral staircase, one discovered many spacious rooms with attractive art on the walls and an interesting mix of modern and more traditional furniture.
The works of art include Norwegian paintings and sculptures from the past three centuries. The most noteworthy pieces were seven works by Edvard Munch: “Aske” (“Ashes”), “Ibsen på Grand” (“Ibsen at the Grand”), “Kvinnen” (“Woman in Three Stages”), “Sjalusi II” (“Jealousy II”), “Vampyr” (“Vampire”), “Melankoli III” (“Melancholy III”), and “Mannshode i kvinnehår” (“Man’s Head in Woman’s Hair”).
Among the traditional paintings were Arne Kavli’s “Hus og vann” (“House on the Lake”), Christian Tønsberg’s “Det indre af Trondhjems Domkirke” (“Interior of Trondhjem Cathedral”) and “Vøringfossen” (“Vøringfossen Waterfall”), and Gustav Wentzel’s “Vinterkveld” (“Winter’s Eve”).
Striking modern pieces included “Henrik Ibsen (lyst)” (“Henrik Ibsen (Illuminated”) and “Solstad” (“Skrik”) by Tom Gundersen, “Shape of Faith” by Kjell Torriset, and the sculpture “Elgokse” (“Moose”) by Skule Waksvik.
Two very interesting pieces of modern furniture struck my eye immediately. One could have aptly been called a Tinker-Toy table. The pieces could be removed and the table reassembled in a different way. The other was a bright pink chair that looked very comfortable but may have presented a challenge when one tried to stand up after settling into it.
After admiring the art and the furniture inside, most guests descended the stairs off the dining room to the ground level and enjoyed the summer-like warmth in the garden.
One Nite Stand, a popular local Washington jazz band, provided pleasant background music and waiters served tasty hors-d’œuvres and delectable pastries throughout the evening. Happily animated conversations were heard everywhere.
Ambassador Aas, along with his staff, were gracious hosts. He remarked that he was very gratified by the great attendance at this special event by his Washington, D.C., colleagues and friends. The evening was magical and will long be remembered by the fortunate guests in attendance.
May the ambassador have a delightful and productive stay in this lovely residence and in the United States!
Christine Foster Meloni is professor emerita at The George Washington University. She has degrees in Italian literature, linguistics, and international education. She was born in Minneapolis and currently lives in Washington, D.C. She values her Norwegian heritage.
This article originally appeared in the June 17, 2016, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.