Åmells is a family owned art-dealer founded in Härnösand in 1920 and currently run by the third generation. For over 90 years, Åmells has dealt in high quality art and antiques. Ever since the Åmells founder Nils Magnus Åmell traveled the Swedish countryside alone by bike, looking for antiques during the 1920s, the business has grown under the leadership of Åke Åmell and current owner Verner Åmell, into being world leading in Scandinavian art with an expertise that stretches from painting, sculpture and antiques to photography and contemporary art. Åmells has played an important part in the preservation of swedish cultural history and has had many opportunities to submit important cultural objects to museums worldwide. On this page, we share our history and highlight important landmarks in it.
Nils Magnus Åmell ca. 1935.
Nils Magnus Åmell
The boy from Dunderkläpp who became an antiques dealer
Nils Magnus Åmell (1885-1968) was born in Dunderkläpp, a village outside the city Härnösand. His interest in antiques awoke early and at fourteen he bought his first object on a farmers auction, a small commode at the price of 25 swedish öre.
The experience had given him a taste for auctions and Nils Magnus started visiting more and more of them on the surrounding farms, purchasing old objects.
After completing military service he decided to make dealing in antiques his full time occupation and moved to Härnösand. Nils Magnus travelled between villages and farms by bike, looking for objects. He often found them in unusual places or cluttered barns and attics where they had been stored away as their owners often thought them worthless.
Nils-Magnus Åmell also undertook journeys abroad in his search for antiques. Recurring destinations where, among others, Finland, Denmark, Germany and Estonia. During his expeditions, Nils Magnus also came across objects of cultural and historical value. These were in most cases brought to museums, giving them the first chance to acquire them. Over the years, many museum have been given the opportunity to present objects of great historical value thanks to Åmells antique dealings.
Drawing of Åmells from the 1960's when it was situated on the corner of Regeringsgatan and Lästmakargatan.
Åmells opens in Stockholm
In 1922, Nils Magnus Åmell was given the opportunity to take over the space after the so called Hybinette-shop on the corner of the two streets Regeringsgatan and Mäster Samuelsgatan in Stockholm. This acquisition constitutes a new era in the history of the company.
Having travelled all over the country by himself to find antiques, Nils Magnus Åmell was now being sought out by collectors at the new address for Åmells antiques in Stockholm, and offered antiques that they had found throughout the country. However, Nils Magnus still continued to take trips, both in Sweden and internationally, if someone tipped him about interesting objects for sale. As the general interest in antiques grew and an increasing amount of people began to see the beauty and value in older objects, Åmells clientele grew. The antique shop became a well-known landmark in Stockholm and Nils Magnus Åmell himself gave many interviews in magazines of the time.
The well-read antique dealer was well liked for his great ability to tell stories, and was happy to share his knowledge of antique objects and art.
In 1955, he gathered some of the many captivating adventures he had experienced as an antique dealer and during his trips in the book “From pot cabinets to grand furniture” (original title, "Från pottskåp till praktmöbler" , Wahlström & Widstrand).
Söderalaflöjeln from the Viking Age was found by Nils Magnus Åmell in 1916. It is considered to be the oldest weathervane in Scandinavia and is today exhibited at The Swedish History Museum. Photo: The Swedish History Museum
The weathervane of Söderala
One of the most important historical objects that Åmells has had the pleasure of submitting to a museum is the weathervane of Söderala, known as Söderalaflöjeln in Sweden. It is the oldest preserved specimen of its kind in the Nordic countries and was made around year 1050.
The beautifully ornamented piece was probably created to decorate the prow of a Viking ship but later came to work as a weathervane on the church in Söderala, hence its name.
After having blown down from the church roof during the 1700s, it was preserved by farmers in the surrounding area, and it was there, on a farm near Söderala that Nils Magnus Åmell found it in the 1920s. One of the farmers told him about the close to forgotten weathervane that lay somewhere in one of the barns, and with joint forces they managed to dig it out from under a hay loft. Nils Magnus saw immediately that it was a unique piece, acquired it and had it sent to his childhood city Härnösand.
There he offered it to the museum of Härnösand who accepted it with great enthusiasm. In the newspapers the weathervane was described as one of the most important findings from the Viking age ever to have been made in Sweden. The weathervane of Söderala has attracted a lot of attention over the years and was made into a stamp in 1970, as one of the greatest treasures from the Viking age. Today, the weathervane can be seen at the Swedish History museum in Stockholm where it is a part of their great collection of artefacts from the Viking age.
Already as a seventeen year old boy, Åke Åmell (1915-2010) was allowed to join his father on his journeys through Europe to look for antiques.
During the early post-war years, the journeys went mostly to France and Paris where the antique shops were filled with beautiful objects. During these trips they would sometimes fill entire train carts with 1700s furniture, china and art to ship to Sweden where they were in demand by Åmells’s clientele. International antique-dealers also made their way to Åmells antiques to buy art and handicraft from Swedish homes.
When Åke Åmell took over after his father the company took a more clear direction towards art specifically. Meanwhile however, Åmells continued to provide furniture and handicraft during Åkes management and established its position as one of the prominent antique-dealers in Sweden.
Nils Magnus Åmell in conversation with king Gustav V in 1935.
Åke Åmell guides Princess Christina at the inaguration of an antique fair.
For more than 90 years, Åmells has been a meeting point for those interested in art and antiques. Our great expertise, discretion and extensive range of objects and artwork of the finest quality has built the foundation for a reliable group of customers and visitors. Our customer base is international and includes private buyers as well as museums and cultural institutions.
Ever since the beginning, Åmells has had the pleasure of welcoming members of the royal family as our customers. The silver- and art interested Gustav V payed a visit to Nils Magnus Åmells’s silver exhibition in Härnösand as early as 1935 and in Stockholm visits from the royal family have not been rare either. Åmells has been granted with the opportunity to assist the royal families of both Sweden, Denmark and Norway in purchasing cultural objects and art by some of the greatest artists in Scandinavia.
Verner Åmell in the gallery on Birger Jarlsgatan 14 in Stockholm.
Verner Åmell grew up in the family business and the company of his father and grandfather provided him with great knowledge of art and antiques early on.
As a young man in the early 1980s he travelled to London in order to deepen his knowledge by studying and working in the international art world. In his spare time he educated himself by visiting museums and auctions, and it was in London his great interest for paintings and the old masters awoke. After returning to Stockholm he decided to direct the focus of the business toward art, in agreement with Åke Åmell. The heavy furniture and antique pieces had to give way and make space for Scandinavian art and painting.
Verner Åmell also came to change the way in which art was displayed. Åmells started exhibiting the artwork in carefully curated exhibitions with accompanying catalogues where each piece was presented with a descriptive text regarding its motive, history and provenance. This way of presenting artworks is unique for Åmells and has been greatly appreciated by customers as well as professional museum staff.
Verner Åmell has had a great role in that Carl Larssons famous painting Midvinterblot from 1915 today can be admired at Nationalmuseum in Stockholm. Photo: Nationalmuseum (CC BY SA)
Carl Larsson's magnificent painting Midvinterblot is one of the most debated works of art in Swedish history. Today it has an established spot at Nationalmuseum in Stockholm, but the road to get there was long and full of setbacks.
The painting was made in 1915 as a part of Carl Larsson’s assigned project to decorate the stairwell of the then newly built Nationalmuseum. In a series of wall paintings Larsson depicted events taken from art history, but for his last painting he chose to pursue another idea and created Midvinterblot which depicts a historically inspired scene from the Viking era.
The painting received criticism already whiles in the making and once it was finished, it was subject to great discussion and finally refused. Instead, the painting was sent to Skissernas Museum in Lund where it remained rolled up for over 40 years up until the early 1980s when Carl Larsson’s descendants contacted Verner Åmell. His family wanted the painting to hang at Nationalmuseum as intended and asked for help to persuade the museum to accept it. Even though Verner Åmell together with a donor offered Nationalmuseum to obtain the famous painting free of charge, the museum decided to turn down the offer. The decision resulted in the painting being sold by the owner at auction to a Japanese collector that understod the importance of the painting.
In conjunction with the celebration of Nationalmuseums 200th anniversary in 1992, a Carl Larsson theme exhibition was held, and Midvinterblot was borrowed in from the Japanese collector who had bought it. For the first time, the Swedish public could see the painting in its intended place at Nationalmuseum, and a strong opinion grew amongst people for the museum to buy it. Over a decade after the museum was first offered to receive the painting as a donation through Verner Åmell, they decided to purchase it with financial support from patrons. Today, Midvinterblot is considered one of the most important works of art in Swedish art history and can be seen in the spot Carl Larsson created it for.
Today Åmells is one of Sweden's top art dealers
Today Åmells is the oldest art dealer in Sweden and world-leading in Scandinavian art. Åmells art gallery is located at Birger Jarlsgatan 14 in Stockholm where we every year hold a large number of carefully curated exhibitions in two floors, consisting of art that is for sale.
Åmells offers high quality pieces by distinguished artists from several centuries, ranging from masters of the 1700s like Alexander Roslin, dearly beloved artists such as Carl Larsson, Bruno Liljefors and Anders Zorn to modernist pioneers like Isaac Grünewald and Sigrid Hjérten. Verner Åmell has honored Åmells’s traditions and ancestry at the same time as he has evolved it into Sweden's largest and most innovative art dealer.
Today, Åmells continues to take part in the world's most exclusive antique fairs and has for a long time been the only gallery in Sweden to be invited to TEFAF in Maastricht. All the while the business has broadened and possesses a unique expertise and supply that ranges from antiquities and grand furniture to paintings, sculptures, photography and contemporary art.