Skip to content

About the collections

The collection at Lysøen

The collection left by Ole Bull and wife Sarah Chapman Torp includes a large number of furniture, photos, art objects, sheet music, manuscripts and other treasures from Bull’s own time and up until the 1970s.

After Ole Bull’s death on 17 august 1880, Bull’s American family continued to use Lysøen as a summer residence.

In 1973, Sylvea Bull Curtis donated the estate to The National Trust of Norway’s Bergen branch and Lysøen opened as a museum in 1974. The place is today stewarded by Kode.

The collection from Ole Bull and his heirs consists of approximately 2000 objects and are currently being thoroughly gone through in connection with the extensive rehabilitation of the villa at Lysøen.

A large part of the collection is from Ole Bull’s own time, including photos, instruments, art, furniture, and memorabilia. Other parts have been added to the Lysøen collection in the years after Ole Bull died in 1880, like for instance a fine collection of toys from the period 1920—1950.

A considerable collection of documents is deposited at the University Library of Bergen and the collection of sheet music has been included in Bergen Public Library’s music collection.

Hodet på en fiolin, som framstilles med ansiktet til en engel.

Ole Bulls fiolin, Gasparo da Salo (ca. 1562). Foto: Thor Brødreskift.

Ole Bull left a considerable collection of violins. The most famous perhaps is the one with the beautiful wooden angel’s head carved by Benevenuto Cellini.

It is known as the “Mona Lisa of Violins” said to be made by Gasparo da Salo (1532—1609).

En plakett på en monter, som beskriver at dette er Ole Bulls Caspar da Salo-fiolin.

Om Ole Bulls fiolin av Gasparo da Salo, laget i 1562. Foto: Dag Fosse / Kode

Fra en utstilling om Ole Bulls fioliner, hvor vi ser en fiolin plassert i en monter.

Fra utstilling om Ole Bulls fioliner / From the Ole Bull exhibition. Foto: Dag Fosse / Kode

En fiolin tilhørende Ole Bull, avbildet mot hvit bakgrunn.

Ole Bulls fiolin, av Giuseppe Guarneri del Gesù (1734). Foto: Dag Fosse.

Another violin from 1734 is made by none other than Giuseppe del Gesú (1698—1744) in Cremona.

En fiolinkropp i brunt tre, avbildet inne i en monter.

Foto: Dag Fosse / Kode

Two of the other violins are from the workshop of Bull’s friend and violinmaker Jean Baptiste Vuillaume in Paris.

Bull spent much time here during the February Revolution in 1848, where he also made a violin himself called “Ole Bull”.

Nærbilde av en fiolin, stilt ut i en monter.

Vuillaume-fiolinen til Ole Bull / Ole Bull's Vuillaume violin. Foto: Dag Fosse / Kode

Bull had the violinmaker create a Guarneri style special violin with distinctly elongated f-holes.

The Vuillaume violin was donated to Lysøen in 1996 by Robert Shapleigh from the USA.

Its voice is both strong and soft, and it is very comfortable to hold, does not wear me out, and is like no other violin where the sound is concerned. Vuillaume is surprised and cannot find any fault with it other than it not being like any other violin (sound-wise of course).

Ole Bull in a letter to his wife Félicité

Ole Bull was known for experimenting with his violinsand he also made improvements on grand pianos.

In the music hall you find the violinist’s grand piano, assumedly made by instrument maker Jens P. Aarestrup in Bergen. It is designed after Ole Bull’s ideas, where the steel frame was cut and a pine board inserted to create a special sound.

In the hall you also find a special piece of furniture which today is a writing desk. Originally, this was an experimental grand piano Bull constructed aided with help from Swedish-American inventor John Ericsson (1803–1889).

Bull wanted Ericsson to use the same principles in the construction as he sought in his violins. He wanted the notes to flow freely without being hindered by the frame’s iron construction and the soundboard couplings. The instrument was finished in 1868, but unfortunately the result was not as desired. The grand piano could not be tuned and ended up serving as a writing desk.

The harmonium with embroidered details from 1875 belonged to Sara Thorp and is the one she played on when Ole bull lay on his deathbed in 1880. The concert grand piano is a Hume from 1903 which belonged to his daughter Olea Bull and has been in the villa ever since it was gifted to her.

En brun fiolinkasse med rød tekstil på innsiden, og med Ole Bulls navn som motiv i lokket. Foran kassen ligger en bue.

Ole Bulls fiolinkasse og bue. Foto: Dag Fosse / Kode.

The instrument collection also contains the only known extended bow belonging to Ole Bull. Bull played violins with a flat-topped bridge so he could play on all four strings at once and with bows that were longer than usual. This bow is 75,5 cm and made by the French bowmaker Pierre Simon (1808—1881).

Ole Bull was constantly touring and travelling all over the world. His double violin case with a blanket was bought for Lysøen from David Bromberg in Chicago in 1999.

En krans av gull, liggende på en brokade-tekstil.

Ole Bulls gullkrans / The golden wreath crown of Ole Bull. Foto: Mats Bäcker

The golden laurel wreath in the Lysøen collection was a gift to Ole bull from his friends in San Francisco, presented to him on 4 March in 1870 on a concert at Platt’s Hall by General H. A. Cobb, who called Ole Bull a “monarch in the realms of music”.

The wreath has 54 gold-coated leaves decorated with 36 pearls, and Ole Bull’s monogram is set in diamonds. The wreath was exhibited at goldsmiths in every city Ole Bill visited during this tour.

Et norsk flagg med en detalj av det amerikanske flagget i venstre, øvre hjørne. Flagget står i konserthallen på Lysøen.

Lysøen: Ole Bulls norsk-amerikanske flagg / Ole Bull's Norwegian-American flag. Foto: Dag Fosse / Kode

Prominently placed in the hall is a remarkable Norwegian flag with the American flag in the upper right corner.

USA became Ole Bull’s second homeland, where he toured frequently and established his own Norwegian colony, Oleana in Pennsylvania. He gave a charity concert in New York for the New York Philharmonic Society for the benefit of the musicians’ widows and children, and the Norwegian-American silk flag was gifted him in gratitude in 1870.

He often hoisted the flag at Lysøen, and on the national day 17 May in 1870 he walked in front in the procession carrying his flag. The papers reported it, saying “Ole Bull is back in Bergen, and he was like a whole procession on his own".

Fra Ole Bulls soveværelse, hvor vi blant annet ser et sort veggteppe med fargerike broderte blomster hengende bak sengen.

Lysøen: Interiør / Interior. Foto: Dag Fosse / Kode

Ole Bull visited Russia four times between 1838 and 1867. He had great success, and his name is still well known in the music societies there. Bull received several gifts in Russia, among other things a chalice and cutlery in Niello silver technique, a music stand in silver from students in Moscow and a cigarette case in gold from crown princess Maria Fedorovna.

The Tsar’s ladies-in-waiting also wanted to show their appreciation of Bull, and they embroidered a large tapestry for him which today hangs on Bull’s bedroom wall at Lysøen.