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Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of the History of Art.
2004 (Swedish)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)Alternative title
The room that creates (English)
Abstract [en]

King Gustav III (1746–1792) was an imaginative person who ardently dedicated himself to the creation of a national Swedish culture, formed in accordance with contemporary continental models. He was also himself a great talent in the area of art and literature. One of his major projects was the creation of an English park at Haga, in the outskirts of Stockholm. An essential component of this project was a Royal Pavilion, which served as a temporary residence for the King. This small building was in every part constructed and decorated in accordance with his wishes.

The decoration was carried out by Louis Masreliez, a gifted artist who worked in the so called arabesque style and whose artistic ability lay in his solid knowledge of classical art and literature as well as his avid use of metaphores. Louis Masreliez’ wall paintings comprise diverse figures in exuberantly detailed compositions, which reproduce a veritable Olympus of gods, mixed with other motifs from Greek and Roman mythology and culture. The aim of this dissertation is to reconstruct the messages conveyed in these paintings and to, thereby, expose the general intention of King Gustav III.

The nine official rooms of the King’s Pavilion are examined and two modes of interpretation are applied. The first, called ”exoteric”, concerns itself with meanings which are directed outwards, i.e. with evident political and cultural messages. The ensuing examination, called ”esoteric”, is motivated by the interest in mysticism shown by Gustav III and his circle. Earlier research has ascertained that the King was drawn to freemasonry, alchemy and even spiritism. In the Pavilion, overt and traditional explanations are found to cohere with esoterical meaning, i.e. with messages intended for an enlightened and initiated minority in high society.

The method applied is a way of approaching the decorations with the view of the cultivated observer of the eighteenth century. The starting point lies in the conditions taken for granted: the way of living, thinking and feeling. Primarily, however, the associations are drawn from references which were of current interest in the days of Gustav III. A few books in the library of the Royal Pavilion are of considerable value for this theses, but the most significant literature is to be found in the private library of Louis Masreliez. His collection counted as the most prominent of its kind in Sweden and was, with regard to its content, representative of the learned humanist. Especially one category of books helps to clarify the meaning of the compositions in the Pavilion, namely the one containing engravings of antique artefacts with an adjacent text explaining each motif. The one book most valuable is L’Antiquité expliquée et representée en figures (1719) by Bernard de Montfaucon. This survey of Greek and Roman remains has hitherto been unnoticed as having been useful to Swedish interior decorators of the eighteenth century.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Konstvetenskapliga institutionen , 2004. , 287 p.
Eidos (Stockholm), ISSN 1650-5298 ; 11
Keyword [en]
Gustav III, Haga, Louis Masreliez, visual rhetoric, 18th century interior decoration, Swedish neoclassical art, iconography, Freemasonry
National Category
Art History
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-195ISBN: 91-974100-3-9OAI: diva2:190778
Public defence
2004-06-10, hörsal 8, hus D, Universitetsvägen 10, Stockholm, 10:00
Available from: 2004-05-19 Created: 2004-05-19Bibliographically approved

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