Previous Next
Record 249/261
Hardanger fiddle made of wood with mother-of-pearl shell and metal inlays, bone saddle, inked rosemaling design on body and neck, and carved heraldic lion head on the end of neck which has had silver leaf applied. Label inside of back at the center bout on the bass-side of the center seam: Denne Fiolin er fabrickeret af Gunder O. Helland. Made by: Gunnar O. (Haugen) Helland/Bo, Telemark, Norway. According to the Hardanger Fiddle Association of America a hardingfele (translated in English means Hardanger fiddle) is essentially a violin creatively decorated with mother-of-pearl inlays, drawings, and often capped by a carving, usually a fearsome lion's head, on the end of the neck. Its most distinguishing feature is the four or five sympathetic understrings that run under the fingerboard. These are tuned to match the main strings and provide the harmonics and bagpipe-like "drone" for which the hardingfele is famous. The instrument originated in the area around the Hardangerfjord of Norway, whence its name. It is distinctly Norwegian and is often referred to as the national instrument of Norway. The main purpose of the Hardanger fiddle is to be played for listeners, but especially for dancers. During a visit to the Oshkosh Public Museum you will not only see one of these fiddles on exhibit but can also listen to a recording of its music. Gunnar Olavsson Haugen Helland was born Gunnar Olavsson Haugen in 1852 and came from a family of woodcarvers. In 1871 Gunnar married Gunhild Eriksdtr Helland, twin sister of Knut Erikson Helland. Knut Erikson Helland was married to Gunnar's sister and was a hardingfelemaker. In fact, the Helland family had a long history of being hardingfelemakers. Knut taught Gunnar the art of making the hardingfele. When Knut died in 1880, Gunnar took over both his farm and the fiddle workshop and took the name Helland as his family name. Gunnar had the farm for 26 years and then sold it to purchase a much larger farm. Gunnar became a great hardingfelemaker winning prizes and medals both in Norway and abroad. Gunnar's sons also carried on the tradition of being hardingfelemakers. Gunnar died in 1938. (This information from 2 internet sources, one unknown found in file dated 11/26/2000 and the other on the descendants of John Erikson Helland:
Violin -PIONEERS AND IMMIGRANTS -Copyright Oshkosh Public Museum

COPYRIGHT INFORMATION ~ For access to this image, contact

NOTICE: This material may be freely used by non-commercial entities for educational and/or research purposes as long as this message remains on all copied material. These electronic pages cannot be reproduced in any format for profit or other presentation without the permission of The Oshkosh Public Museum. 2005 Oshkosh Public Museum, All Rights Reserved   
Last modified on: December 12, 2009