Tag Archives: livrustkammaren

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.

New exhibition: “Kunglig Vintage”

Chiffon, silk, satin, tulle, crêpe, duchesse, lace, brocade, embroidery, draping. Taste those words and add skilfully made patterns, cuts and advanced sowing techniques and you have yourself a merry little collection of couture. And this is just what Livrustkammaren, the Royal Armoury at the Royal Palace of Stockholm, is putting on show right now – a gorgeous collection of royal couture worn by Princess Sibylla, Princess Margaretha Mrs Ambler, Princess Ingeborg, Queen Louise and Queen Victoria.

Yesterday I had the pleasure of attending the opening preview of the new exhibition titled “Kunglig Vintage” (“Royal Vintage”) and although feeling a little daunted by the younger and more style-aware than usual crowd, not to mention the topical knowledge of people like the opening speaker Bea Szenfeld, I was able to enjoy the beauty of the fashion and feel a little royally nostalgic in a way that probably not many others at the event were (many being into the actual fashion and techniques and not so much the royal provenance, like myself).

1960’s sillk coat with flower damask pattern by Märtaskolan. Worn by Princess Margaretha Mrs Ambler for her sister Princess Désirée’s wedding in 1964.

The exhibition consists of around 70 pieces dating from the early 1900’s, with a few rare pieces made for Princess Ingeborg, up to the 1970’s. An emphasis is put on the 1950’s and 60’s with focus on the fashion of Princess Sibylla, Princess Margaretha Mrs Ambler and Queen Louise. It’s a cavalcade of beautiful pieces, with a majority of the items being dresses, that showcase Swedish couture history and the golden age of exclusive ateliers that lasted until the late 1960’s when they had to shut down and leave room for factory production, designer boutiques and more generally accessible fashion.

Exhibited in rooms by colour (red-purple, light, dark and blue-green) the exquisite pieces, made to the royals’ personal measurements in hand sown beautiful fabrics and with ravishing details, are displayed against a back drop that doesn’t belong to their times. Scenes from the subway in Stockholm and a street at night, perhaps meant to show that the highest level of couture lasts more than a lifetime.

Augusta Lundin, NK:s franska damskrädderi, Märthaskolan and Tunborg & Co are the ateliers behind the fashion in the exhibition, the testaments of a time when handmade and only the best was taken for granted in the royal world. These ateliers are an important part of Swedish fashion history and some details about them are told in the exhibition but I wish there would have been even more.

Early 1900’s tulle dress covered in sequins decorated with winding embroideries of long sweaping tassels of pearls by Augusta Lundin for Princess Ingeborg.

Vintage means pieces that are a few decades old (at least 25 years according to Szenfeld), couture or high class ready-made. Today after the consumption era of the 1980’s and 90’s; with the very visual reality we live in with glossy magazines, billboard ads, an internet overflowed with fashion blogs and a day-to-day life still very much impacted by multi-national business conglomerates – there’s a trend saying that we are starting to value new (old) things.

Now that class is less important and most of us have been able to have a decent wardrobe and indulge ourselves in a few exclusive pieces, be it tech gadgets or designer bags, those specialists and small businesses that have had a hard time surviving in recent decades have begun to see new light at the end of the tunnel. Fast consumption is no longer trendy; instead keywords like organic, sustainable, eco friendly, second hand and vintage have become regulars in our vocabularies.

The question is though: where is royal fashion going, will it be more or less exclusive in the future? Back in the day the royal ladies publicly supported the ateliers who made the clothes they wore, not to mention educated themselves in sewing. Present time royal women mostly wear designer fashion from the public runway collections mixed with cheap pieces from H&M, Zara and Mango. Although they don’t officially announce the brands they wear there are fashion bloggers who can name the designer and specific collection immediately.

But this way around makes the support a part of a larger consumer chain and global PR; not the kind of support for skill, craft and jobs that it did in the old days. Are we forever thrown into a royal reality were money makes this necessary, tailor made is only for very special occasions and royal style means accessible, affordable style, fashion spreads in Vogue and Elle plus attendance at fashion weeks instead of personal involvement with skilled craftsmen and women like in the old days?

In connection to the exhibition Livrustkammaren has also released a book to accompany it. It’s a high quality beautiful thing in black covers, containing well over 200 pages with great photos of pieces in the exhibition accompanied by explanatory text of the design and royal owner. The book also has a number of essays written by experts covering topics of the 1900’s fashion history; from couture to today’s fashion blogs. The book is available at the bargain price of 180 Swedish crowns in the museum shop.

I can warmly recommend a visit to this exhibition. You don’t need to be interested in fashion per see or know anything about the techniques of design to enjoy this great feast of visual candy. If anything you will leave feeling beautified and perhaps, like me, slightly nostalgic for days gone by.

Kunglig Vintage runs between 8 April 2011 and 8 January 2012.

New exhibition: “Manligt – ur Gustaf V:s garderob”

Manligt, LivrustkammarenThe Royal Armoury at the Royal Palace of Stockholm is best known for its historic collections of items belonging to famous dead kings with glorified pasts at various battlefields, but in 2011 they are putting some spotlight on the more recent history and topics that fit with the times we live in now.

Yesterday evening I had the pleasure of attending the opening and preview of their first new exhibition of this year, “Manligt – ur Gustaf V:s garderob” (“Masculine – From Gustaf V:s Wardrobe”), putting the focus on the royal fashion of King Gustaf V (1858-1950, king 1907-1950).  He was the first uncrowned king since the mid-Middle Ages, the last Swedish monarch to yield important political powers and a tennis player commonly known as Mr G or V-Gurra.

A 1937 suit by court tailor Johan Lindahl. Photo: Madeleine Söder/Livrustkammaren

The statement “the clothes makes the man” was the starting point of putting this exhibition together and it shows the gentleman’s fashion of the early 20th century as well as the clothes, accessories and hobbies that created the King’s image as a man and a royal. And this was during a time when the role of the monarch and the royals began to take a completely new form; leaping world events took place and the modern Swedish society took shape.

Some of King Gustaf’s suits, well known from the official studio portraits he posed for, are on display together with exclusive accessories like cufflinks, suspenders, ties and handkerchiefs. There is also a big vanity bag for travels, a silk umbrella with his monogram and engraved accessories for his (in those days) very royal smoking habit. On display is also one of the King’s famous tennis outfits consisting of matching shirt, tie, cardigan, trousers and shoes. And from his automobile interest comes a special gabardine coat.

One piece that raised my eyebrow was an oriental-looking dressing gown in silk with matching slippers in red calfskin. Not exactly something I can imagine that Sweden’s present head of state, King Carl XVI Gustaf, would walk around in during mornings and evenings at Drottningholm Palace.

Well, without further ado, I end this with some of my own photos from the event….

Princess Christina Mrs Magnuson and Mark Levengood

Lena Rangström, First Curator

Magnus Hagberg, Director General, and Malin Grundberg, Curator

Tennis outfit, dressing gown, suit, accessories