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( Originally Published 1951 )
About 1830 an epoch begins which, cn the whole, was decadent, not only in Sweden but all over the world. When people tired of the Empire, no other style appeared to take its place, only a romantic tendency to turn to the past for inspiration and motifs. During the nineteenth century, various imitative styles appeared. Even earlier, artists had turned to the past-usually the classic past-but only to find inspiration, not to imitate. Now in romantic enthusiasm, motifs were transplanted to new forms, often with exaggerated, almost caricature, effect. This eclecticism, which occurred when handcrafts gave way to machine production, inevitably led to decadence.
The revived styles were launched at close intervals. About 1830 the Neo-Gothic made its appearance, ten years later the Neo-Rococo, and about simultaneously, the Naturalistic. Even nature was imitated! In the 1860s a reborn Louis Seize dominated; in the 1870s a Neo-Renaissance and a Neo-Greek; and in the 1880s the ancient Scandinavian "dragon style" appeared. Styles overlapped. Several were popular at the same time and sometimes several were combined in one design.
The Neo-Gothic only rarely appears in silver of the period, as in a writing set, complete with desk clock, made in 183i by Gustaf Folcker (1807-1865) of Stockholm. The Neo Rococo, on the other hand, was enthusiastically accepted by silversmiths and was very popular around 1850. The pressing technique was frequently used for the actual shaping and also for the ornamentation. A thin silver sheet was pressed between engraved steel dies, and sometimes several pressed parts were soldered together. A coffee set made in 1858 at the Mollenborg shop in Stockholm is typical of this bizarre rococo interpretation.
The Neo-Gothic had its deepest roots in England, the Neo-Rococo was first introduced in France, while the Naturalistic became most popular-and also most mistreated-in Germany. Highly developed skill in casting and chasing inspired silversmiths to depict such details as rough bark on a gnarled tree trunk, wiry fur on a stag, or the mat-glazed surface of a leaf. Often this naturalism was combined with the Neo-Rococo, often it was expressed in magnificent centerpieces or other decorative objects presented as testimonial gifts to prominent persons. Perhaps most pleasing to modern taste are the small objets d'art, like the candleholder from 1839 by Adolf Zethelius.
The Neo-Renaissance appeared in heavy dining-room furniture of oak, and also in the table silver. But it was not original Renaissance forms that were copied in these unmistakably nineteenth-century objects-rather Renaissance-like ornaments were applied as surface decorations.
The Neo-Greek style-as expressed in table silver-had some slight relation to the true classic for the engraved decoration consisted of draped figures. Perhaps there was also Greek influence in the relatively pure forms.
Toward the end of the nineteenth century, romanticism became more national in character.
Preoccupation with rune stones and prehistoric finds resulted in a rebirth of dragon-style designs. Decoration, however, was only loosely applied and without relation to the function and form of the article.