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Swedish Silver - The Gustavian Era (circa 1775-1810)

[Silver In The Middle Ages (circa 1050-1520)]  [The Renaissance (circa 1520-1650)]  [The Baroque (circa 1650-1700)]  [The Late Baroque (circa 1700-1720)]  [Period Of Fredrik I (circa 1720-1750)]  [The Rococo (circa 1750-1775)]  [The Gustavian Era (circa 1775-1810)]  [Empire (circa 1810-1830)]  [The Period Of Eclecticism (circa 1830-1895)]  [The Jugend Style Or L'Art Nouveau (circa 1895-1910)]  [Modern Developments]  [Silver Marks]  [More Articles On Silver] 

( Originally Published 1951 )



Sensational finds from the buried cities of Herculaneum and Pompeii at the Gulf of Naples stimulated interest in classic antiquities. In Paris, designers tired of bizarre rococo styles and turned to the classical world for inspiration. As a result, classic forms and decoration became popular and a pleasant calm succeeded rococo restlessness. The accepted trend was known as Louis Seize in France; in Sweden it found favor with King Gustaf III and has rightfully been named for this monarch and patron of the arts.

In the middle of the 1770s, a few years after King Gustaf III ascended the throne, the new rather classic style, soon became very popular, although the rococo lingered on for decades in rural areas. Jean Eric Rehn was an outstanding artist of the new style, and it was probably he who in 1776 designed for the royal court the sumptuous tureen, made by Anders Stafhell (1755-1794). In softly rounded forms, the rococo lived on, but the ornamentation is of another era with formal laurel wreaths, fluted borders, and lion masks replacing the fluttering rococo leaf and ribbon. The Swedish coat of arms with its restrained heraldry perfectly fits the rest of the decoration.

Aside from court commissions, Rehn does not seem to have made many designs for silversmiths, but his style is often mirrored in works of the 1770s and 1780s, as in a sugar bowl of 1782, made by Lars Boye (1762-1795) of Stockholm. Laurel festoons, egg and dart borders, are characteristic, as are the wide-spaced grooves or "cannelures" on base and cover. A blend of traditional and classic is also seen in a sugar box made by Anders Brandt (1777-1791), marked Norrkoping 1786. It has beading, stamped ornamental borders, and garlanded footrests. Flower knob and oval form indicate rococo endurance.

While the early Gustavian style clung to an extent to the rococo, a new trend appeared in the middle 1770s, causing noticeable change. The greatest sensation was a straight, cylindrical coffeepot, with a turned wooden handle extending horizontally. The earliest one known was made in Stockholm in 1776 by Isak Sauer (1750-1777), with narrow rim and base bands the only decoration. The new style was almost immediately popular and during the next few decades, it was unrivaled in city and town. Early pieces rest directly on a base; later ones on three or four footrests. A handsome and original variation was made by Pehr lethelius (1766-1810) of Stockholm in 1799. The piece is alternately concave- and convex-fluted, rests on four feet, and has a horizontal wooden handle. There is a matching oval sugar bowl. Both are now in Sweden's National iVluseum. Later coffee sets of matching pieces were, of course, quite common.

Less usual was the urn-shaped pot. of classic type. It was never standardized, but many variations appeared. A well-designed urn was made in 1798 by Abraham Gertzen (1793-1824) of Landskrona in the province of Skane.

It rests on a square, latticed base, supported by four spheres. 1'he lustrous surfaces are outlined by narrow beading and ornamented with two medallions, favorite devices of the period.

Teapots were also cylindrical and supported by four spheres or paw-shaped footrests. Tea kettles were often urn-shaped and rested on square four-footed bases. Erik Holmberg (1774-1837) of Lund in Skane made such a kettle with a base of black, polished wood with silver mountings.

Even cream pitchers were urn-shaped. One made in 1799 by Lars Bjugg (1758-1816) of Jonkoping in SmAland has narrow bands of beading, the popular flared lip, and a square, latticed base resting on four spheres. The sugar bowl, which in the early Gustavian period was low and sturdy and similar to a tureen, became upright in the 1780s. It usually had a round base and cast medallions, as in the one made in 1794 by the Gavle master, Anders Dunderberg (1793-1808). This was the common type of the 1790s. The base section is square and the rim of the oval bowl is joined in a curving line to the cover. Besides beading, medallions, and stamped borders, there is gadrooning on feet and cover, evidence of revived interest in this decoration.

The early Gustaviaa candlestick was similar to the baluster rococo holder, although decoration was more symmetric and classic. But as early as 1780, the new column-shaped holder, grew popular. Typical is the holder made by Arvid Floberg (1763-1805), and marked Stockholm 1789. It has the simplicity of this period and the pearl and gadroon borders. The stem is a straight, cannelured column.



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