Tag Archives: exhibitions

New exhibition: “40 år på tronen – 40 år för Sverige”

Opening of "40 år på tronen - 40 år för Sverige"Yesterday evening I had the pleasure of attending the opening of a jubilee exhibition at the Royal Palace of Stockholm, made for King Carl XVI Gustaf’s 40th jubilee as king which is celebrated this September and throughout the year. The exhibition, aptly named “40 years on the throne – 40 years for Sweden”, feels like a very well-made and multi-faceted display of the King’s official life and role for Sweden.

The Hall of State is the setting for the main part of it. Screens with photos from the King and his family’s official life runs along the walls on each long side of the grand hall. In the middle of the room a similar line runs through the room. First up in the middle is a section of lighted screens that displays the story of the King’s accession to the throne – of how the days played out and with some personal recollections, for example of how the 27 year old Carl Gustaf practiced for his throne speech with the help of Prince Bertil and some courtiers. There are also sections devoted to painted and photographic portraits of the King, coins and stamps from different events marked during his 40 year long reign, and formal documents concerning the death of King Gustaf VI Adolf and following accession and the enthronement of King Carl XVI Gustaf.

Opening of "40 år på tronen - 40 år för Sverige"

The exhibitions offers some nice contrasts; from some of the grandest symbols of the old monarchy to the modern way of presenting royals in today’s world. Queen Christina’s silver throne from her 1650 coronation draped with King Oscar II’s coronation mantle with ermine trimming at the head of the room. At the back are selected parts of King Carl Gustaf’s wardrobe, ranging from formal to outdoors and taken from famous occasions, each accompanied by identifying photos. In the end of the middle line there are flat television screens showing events from the King and his family’s official life, glimpses of things like official- and state visits and weddings.

Opening of "40 år på tronen - 40 år för Sverige"

Apart from the main exhibition in the Hall of State there is also a selection of portraits given to the King at state visits on display in the guest apartment (yesterday in the Apartments of the Orders of Chivalry), and in the council chamber a video of the King’s oath of assurance is shown.

Opening of "40 år på tronen - 40 år för Sverige"

Opening of "40 år på tronen - 40 år för Sverige"Yesterday evening’s opening night offered a buzzing Hall of State filled with expectant guests. King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia were joined in the royal boxes/podiums by Princess Christina and Tord Magnuson, Crown Princess Victoria and Prince Daniel, Prince Carl Philip, Princess Madeleine and Princess Désirée and Baron Niclas Silfverschiöld.

In the audience were Count Bertil and Countess Jill Bernadotte af Wisborg, Countess Marianne Bernadotte af Wisborg and Countess Monica Bonde, among others.

Opening of "40 år på tronen - 40 år för Sverige"

Princess Christina Mrs Magnuson, the King’s youngest sister and the one who has been closest to the King during his 40 years on the throne (both physically, as she’s the only one who’s remained in Stockholm, and personally, being near to- and supporting to the King), was the one to declare the exhibition formally opened. Below I have translated her speech which moved both the King and her sisters deeply, a video can be seen here of it.

Your Majesties, Your Royal Highnesses, Your Excellency

I now stand before a situation which you, my dear brother, has stood before many times during the last 40 years. Namely this, as the last speaker, to open an exhibition. An exhibition where those who know so much more of what it’s about already have spoken, also lengthily, a lot and well. Even so I know quite a bit about what this exhibition is about. I have had the privilege to follow you and your work at close range during these 40 years. At times I have acted as a sounding board, occasionally a supporter, sometime advisor, and sometime, the devil’s advocate.

Yes, maybe no one has followed you in your role as Sweden’s head of state for as long as I have. I do know with which relentless energy you have fulfilled your many duties. Yes what does not come to light in this exhibition is the work which lies behind all of these appearances. All the planning meetings, all the preparations, early mornings, long working days. Not to mention all the long travels to other parts of the world and other time zones. The kind of things that wears on body and soul. Working 9 to 5 is a for you unknown concept, rather 7/24, and this almost the whole year around. Despite this, you have also had the time to be a husband, father, and now also grandfather, and not the least a caring brother, brother-in-law, uncle, to me and my sisters and our families.

Yes there is a personal sphere which this exhibition about your first 40 years on the throne does not cover, and neither should it, because the private is just that, private. So even if we both very well remember the dramatic and for us shaking days in Helsingborg and then in Stockholm 40 years ago, that is just that, our private memories. No, the focus in this – which I think is a both beautiful and different exhibition – is your role as head of state, your first 40 years on the throne, your first 40 years for Sweden.

Let me say this here, publicly and once and for all, I and all of your other big sisters with me, admire you for all that you have done during this time. And now I want to invite you all to really experience the exhibition. And hereby I have the honour and joy to open this exhibition.

Opening of "40 år på tronen - 40 år för Sverige"

The exhibition is open until 2 February 2014 but it is recommended to study the opening times before going, especially as the parts which are not in the Hall of State may at times be closed due to official representation of the Royal Family.

Current exhibition: “Treasures of the Palace”

"Treasures of the Palace"
The Presidential Palace in Helsinki, Finland, is currently undergoing a two-year renovation. For the duration of the work the president has moved out together with his staff and all representation takes place in temporary offices elsewhere. This long period of closure opened up opportunities to let conservationists work on its collections, and to display it to the public.

Said and done, Ateneum (The Finnish National Gallery) opened this exhibition back in April. I had a chance to visit it during my recent summer stay in Finland. Earlier on members of the public could even watch the conservation department work on some of the pieces in the museum, but that was likely on summer break or done with by the time I had a chance to go…

“Treasures of the Palace” starts with a bang on the second floor. As you enter the main hall of the exhibition you are met with the gigantic painting ”Alexander II opens the Diet in 1863 at the Imperial Palace” by Robert Wilhelm Ekman. The huge painting, on loan from the House of Nobility in Helsinki, shows the opening of the Diet of the Estates on 18 September 1863 and those interested in the personalities of the day can borrow an identification map to learn the names of many of the figures appearing in front of the tsar. The painting clearly shows a Finnish lion coat of arms behind a chandelier above the tsar’s podium, perhaps one sign of Alexander II:s benevolent attitude towards his Finnish country and one of the reasons why he is still today held in such good esteem by many.

Photo: Hannu Pakarinen / Finnish National Gallery's Central Art Archives

Photo: Hannu Pakarinen / Finnish National Gallery’s Central Art Archives


The exhibition shows art, sculptures, furniture, clocks, chandeliers, tableware and an Iconostasis. Weaved into these categories is also the story of the palace and its varying use through the centuries, told through sketches, drawings, photos and texts.

The Presidential Palace’s art comes from two collections; the Imperial Collection and Ateneum’s deposited collection. The Imperial Collection consists of art bought during the era of the Grand Duchy of Finland, mainly from the second half of the 19th century, and consists of some (nationalistic) pieces that show the defence of Russian soil as well as many landscape depictions. Most of this collection stems from Alexander II:s time and almost all pieces are by Finnish artists. The Ateneum collection at the palace started after Finland’s independence and has shifted through the years.

One of the paintings from the Imperial Collection is “Anchorage in Copenhagen III, 1890” by Albert Edelfelt. It was commissioned by Alexander III in 1889 and shows the home town of his wife, Danish-born Empress Maria Feodorovna. Edelfelt painted three versions of this motif, encouraged to work on the colours which the empress first found “too bland”, and one of them was purchased for her personal collection.

The extensive collection of tableware shown is topped by two dinner sets; the imperial one bought in Russia in the 1850’s, crowned with the grand ducal coat of arms, and the current presidential state dinner set with the Finnish lion. One can also view some photos of palace life from the tsarist era as well as the later presidential one, and there many photos of the traditional independence day ball through the years as well as a photo of how the state dinner set was used by Queen Elizabeth II at a state visit in 1976.

One room shows the sculptural busts of the presidents of Finland and the painted portraits of the spouses of the president. The first ladies (a term not used in Finland) are normally displayed in the apartment of the empress on the palace’s second floor and thus usually have a very limited exposure.

A portable iconostasis painted on canvas as well as other religious objects from the palace’s former orthodox chapel, a room now used as a library, are exhibited in their own room. It was acquired for palace in 1834 and was transferred to Ateneum’s collections in 1919.

Accompanying the exhibition is an audio guide in which the current living presidents and their spouses have selected their favourite piece of art from the collection and tells the visitors about it (the non-Finnish versions are narrated by others).

“Treasures of the Palace” is on until 1 September 2013.

New exhibition: “Från Ingegerd till Estelle”

Opening of "Från Ingegerd till Estelle"On the first day of June this past Saturday, I set off for for Sigtuna – a lovely seaside town north of Stockholm with fascinating roots back dating to the pre-Sweden days of the Middle Ages. My destination was not just Sigtuna, picturesque town centre though it has, but their museum and a new exhibition staged there.

The exhibition, “Från Ingegerd till Estelle – en prinsessutställning” (“From Ingegerd to Estelle – a princess exhibition“), combines history – from the very old to that of recent centuries – with modern art installations, objects and reflecting texts. All on the topic of princesses. Sigtuna Museum has chosen twelve of them, ranging in time from Ingegerd (ca. 1000-1050) to today’s Estelle (b. 2012), and tries to escape from the general male power perspective on history.

Opening of "Från Ingegerd till Estelle"From the early days of royal history, questions are asked about why female power yielders are not more interesting to us when we talk about our early history and the created “viking times”, and why are women so absent from history books for younger school children even today?

From an archaeological perspective to modern feminist video installations that explore the female role, the topics are explored in different ways. The modern art perspective though dominates; there are video installations, photographs, porcelain figures and pieces of clothing.

Opening of "Från Ingegerd till Estelle"

Princess Christina opened the exhibition on Saturday, joking that she is “the inauguration princess” of the female royal roles; someone one can call on when events like these take place. The Princess was joined by her husband Tord Magnuson and both seemed in a good mood as they arrived in their own car and happily received a lot of attention from a great audience of people at the museum.

Opening of "Från Ingegerd till Estelle"

A few more photos can be found in my Flickr stream.

New exhibition: “Bilder av Kristina”

Bilder av KristinaYesterday, on my birthday actually, a friend and I had the pleasure of attending the opening of a highly anticipated exhibition in Stockholm – “Bilder av Kristina” (“Images of Kristina”).

The plans for this exhibition took root in 2010 when the Vatican Library offered the Royal Armoury (Livrustkammaren) to borrow items from a collection that was started by Queen Christina and had been restored with the financial aid of The Marcus and Amalia Wallenberg Memorial Foundation.

The result of that offer and its subsequent plans has now become an exhibition and today, 324 years after the Queen’s death, the first Swedish exhibition about her life since Nationalmusem (The National Museum of Fine Arts) held one in 1966, has opened.

Princess Christina Mrs MagnusonThe opening ceremony was held in the Hall of State at the Royal Palace of Stockholm. After introductions by Malin Grundberg, director of the Royal Armoury, and Magnus Hagberg, director general of the museum authority of which the Royal Armoury is a part, the word was given to Monsignor Cesare Pasini, prefect of the Vatican Library. Cellist Linnea Olsson performed and the Swedish Minister for Culture, Lena Adelsohn Liljeroth, held a quite general speech.

The actual opening of the exhibition was performed by Princess Christina Mrs Magnuson who, after a general short introduction to Queen Christina’s life, contributed with a personal anecdote.

Princess Christina told how she had the pleasure of visiting the exhibition at Nationalmuseum in 1966 and that her grandfather, King Gustaf VI Adolf, wanted to thank the pope personally for the cooperation the Swedish involved parties had received by the Vatican. To avoid attention and anyone noticing, not wanting it to be seen as an official visit, King Gustaf VI Adolf decided to deliver his greetings during one of his private stays in Rome. He and his grandchild Princess Christina were driven a back-way at the Vatican and discreetly ushered into the building where they then encountered Pope Paul VI in one of the corridors. After delivering his thank you message, King Gustaf VI Adolf and the pope sat down and talked for a good half hour, two learned men as they were, and Princess Christina remembers sitting in a corner and just listening, almost in awe.

Queen Christina at the time of her coronation, 18th century copy of 1650 orignal by David Beck, in front of coronation robesAfter the opening ceremony, everyone had a chance to visit the exhibition in the armoury and the Stockholm Cathedral which shows two unique books from the Vatican. At the Royal Armoury they have divided the exhibition into sections focusing on different parts of Queen Christina’s life or aspects of her personality – it’s the warrior king’s daughter, the King Christina, the Minerva of the north, the catholic convert and queen without a land, the “queer” queen (questions of her identity), the dead majesty (with the tomb opening), and the queen of many myths.

With these sections the Royal Armoury has put focus on the sides of Queen Christina which will probably always make her a fascinating topic for research and discussion, and a historical figure one will never fully be able to categorize and describe.

Allegory on Queen Christina's catholic submission, Angelo Trevisani, ca 1700

The Vatican Library has contributed with several items; the most unique of those is a pergament from the 9th century. Queen Christina started her collection of books and scripts as a young student in the early 17th century Stockholm, it was then added to through all her years via purchases, gifts and looting (war booty).

Later, before abdicating from the Swedish throne, Queen Christina made sure to ship the collections she wanted to surround herself with, out of Sweden. After the Queen’s death the pope acquired much of her collection which has since 1690 been placed in the Vatican Library. The collection has since been added to through the years.

Other items in the exhibition is the coronation mantle which only bears traces of the over 700 gold crowns that it was once embroidered with, the coronation throne canopy, the Act of Abdication and a special metallic mesh mail (see Wikipedia for explanation). It’s the mail that Marquise Monaldesco wore when Queen Christina had him executed in 1657 after suspecting that he was exposing her secret plans to become Queen of Naples with the help of France. The execution was long and bloody because of this protection. The piece is a loan from Palace of Fontainebleau.

Dress silk bodice worn by Christina aged 1-2

Apart from objects like these there are many portraits on display from the different life ages of Queen Christina as well as on people who were important in her life, and a varied collection of books and documents. Accompanying the old historic objects are contemporary segments, namely video installations, a sound installation and a “norm tester” for the visitors to interact with.

All in all it’s a small exhibition (because of the museum’s limited space) that gives the visitor tiny glimpses of Queen Christina’s life. One risk, I would say, is that visitors without any pre-knowledge will only learn very limited information and run a risk of taking some of these “images” of the Queen, without really grasping them, and carrying them still into the future.

Queen Christina's Deed of Abdication 1654, The National Archives

Accompanying the exhibition is a book, “Bilder av Kristina: Drottning av Sverige – Drottning i Rom” (“Images of Kristina: Queen of Sweden, Queen in Rome”), which is its biggest proceed. In the book twelve authors and authorities on Queen Christina have written one chapter each and there are photographs of the exhibition’s items. So far I have only had a chance to glance through the book but it looks very interesting; although I’m already quite sure that it will feel like they have been kept on a leech and could’ve been given a bit more room. But this book will make an interesting read and a lasting piece giving our time’s thoughts and research on Queen Christina’s life.

– Gustav II Adolf’s daughter has become a bridge between different cultures and an opportunity to cooperation, to understanding and also to friendship between Kristina’s two worlds, the one in which she was born and the one she decided to take to her heart, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone writes in one of its introductions.

Overview of one of the exhibition rooms. Photo: Erik Lernestål/The Royal Armoury (Livrustkammaren).

Overview of one of the exhibition rooms. Photo: Erik Lernestål/The Royal Armoury (Livrustkammaren).

“Bilder av Kristna” (“Images of Kristina”) opened today and is open until 5 January 2014. The exhibition is made possible by financial contribution from The Axel and Margaret Ax:son Johnson Foundation and is a cooperation between the Royal Armoury (Livrustkammaren), the National Archives (Riksarkivet), the Stockholm Cathedral (Storkyrkan) and the Swedish embassy at the Holy See.

New exhibition: “Jag är Armfelt”

The exhibition's graphic profile consists of a male model posing as Armfelt

The exhibition’s graphic profile consists of a male model posing as Armfelt

Tonight I had the pleasure of attending the opening night of a new exhibition at the Royal Armoury (Livrustkammaren) – “Jag är Armfelt”, or “I am Armfelt” as it would be in English.

As someone who finds the 18th century to be a fascinating period in history and knows the gist of the story of Armfelt, the person at the centre of it, this is an exhibition I’ve looked forward to.

The exhibition’s title alludes to Gustaf Mauritz Armfelt (1757-1814), one of the shooting stars of Gustavian Sweden and the court of King Gustav III.

Armfelt made a brilliant career as one of the King’s favourites, lived in exile after his death, was redeemed under King Gustav IV Adolf (later deposed) and moved to his homeland Finland (after Sweden lost it) before being called to serve Emperor Alexander I in Russia for whom he rose to great respect, raised to comital status, and lived out his life as a statesman.

Gustaf Mauritz Armfelt by J Grassi, 1799-1801

Gustaf Mauritz Armfelt by J Grassi, 1799-1801

Armfelt is also well-known for his many mistresses, extramarital children and marriage to one of Sweden’s most eligible noble ladies at the time. He had an eventful and exciting life, going from high to low and back again; a life that would be perfect on the big screen as a film.

“I am Armfelt”, the exhibition’s title, is quite a self-assured one. But does the exhibition really answer that question? I would say no.

Of course it’s interesting to walk though rooms of display cases that shows off things from his and his family’s life – robes, orders, portraits, furniture, letters and other items. If you love history and beautiful things then what’s not to love? But the exhibition for some reason seems to highlight Armfelt’s private person and especially his reputation as a ladies’ man. In one room the floor is even covered with quotes from his personal correspondence with some of his mistresses.

"Jag är Amfelt" exhibitionArmfelt’s deeds as something more than a personality or celebrity, his distinguished career during King Gustav III’s reign and role as a statesman in Russia and the Grand Duchy of Finland, is lost.

The exhibition also comes with a smartphone app in which the user is supposed to be faced with different dilemmas similar to Armfelt’s, and through interacting (scanning QR codes through the exhibition) with the app and making choices the user is meant to gain something. I have not used this app, call me old fashioned but I rather stick to either guided tours or audio guides.

I’m sure this app is a part of the museum’s aim to reach a younger audience but somehow I’m getting mixed messages and feelings about this all. In my opinion they should have clearer targets with their exhibitions – either do intended lighter ones about popular topics (such as the Royal Vintage exhibition last year) or then do really serious ones aimed at people with genuine interest in history and personalities. They can do both of these “genres” and that way expand their visitor numbers and reach different target groups.

“Jag är Armfelt” is produced by Livrustkammaren (The Royal Armoury) in cooperation with The National Museum of Finland and is between 28 March 2012 and 3 February 2013.