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Object of the Month - September 2014

A glimpse at the Coronation festivities of Queen Christina

Ryhmä I dia 2663
Group I: A drummer and horn blowers.

Ryhmä II dia 2664

Group II: God of war, Mars, and his companions, knights Philopator, on his shield the device Pro patria, Democrates, on his shield the device Pro libertate, and Theander, on his shield the device Pro religione. 

Ryhmä III dia 2665

Group III: The three graces and the triumphal chariot of Venus. Standing at the helm of the chariot, Cupid accompanies Venus who sits holding a flaming heart, a symbol of love, and a scepter. Standing at the back, Fortuna is depicted as usual standing on a globe and holding a sail, both of which refer to the precariousness of luck. 

Ryhmä IV dia 2666

Group IV: Eudemon's journeymen, Philander and Dorisel on horseback.

Ryhmät V ja VI dia 2667

Group V: Philander and Dorisel's companions, laurel wreaths on their heads, carrying palm leaves. Group VI: The Knight Eudemon, defender of Peace and Happiness.

Ryhmä VII dia 2668

Group VII: The chariot of Bliss (Felicitas?), drawn by four winged unicorns and driven by Peace (Pax). Accompanying Bliss in the chariot, there sit Concord (Concordia) and a female figure accompanied by two small children, symbolizing Charity (Caritas). 

Ryhmä VIII dia 2669

Group VIII: Based on a contemporary, printed explicatory text, the scene has been identified as Mount Parnassus, which seems questionable, though, since on the top is seen Fama (Fame) with two bassoons, and the nine female figures on the slopes all play different musical instruments, which, in spite of their number, excludes the identification as the Muses. Like the chariot of Venus, Mount Parnassus moved thanks to hidden machinery.

Ryhmä IX dia 2670

Group IX: Four knights on horseback.

Ryhmä X dia 2671

Group X: Four nymphs and four steeds.

Ryhmä XI dia 2672

Group XI: Twenty horsemen armed with lances and shields.

When King Gustav II Adolph fell at the battle of Lützen in 1632, his daughter, crown princess Christina (1626-16nn), was only six years of age. During the minority of the future Queen a regency government was in power under the leadership of statesmen such as State Chancellor Axel Oxenstierna, Chief Justice Per Brahe the younger and Chief Marshall Jakob De la Gardie. Christina became of age in 1644, but her coronation took place only on 20 October 1650. This scroll, a kind of a panorama, shows one of the festive processions that were arranged during the coronation festivities in Stockholm on 24 October 1650.

The coronation was celebrated by due pomp by arranging several and various festivities, one of which was an impressive procession called "the Praise of the Honour of blissful Happiness", which is documented in the present painting. It is done in body colour on a parchment scroll nearly four meters long. The scroll has been assembled of several sheets of parchment glued together. The upper edge of the scroll is uneven, and consequently has been filled in by strips of paper and parchment, to even out the breadth of the scroll.

"The Praise of the Honour, etc." was a part of a larger festival celebration which also included a tournament, the participants of which were led to the tournament field by this procession. The procession and the tournament had been paid for by the cousin of the Queen and future heir to the throne, Count Palatine Carl Gustav, who in all probability took part in the procession in the guise of the Knight Eudemon (group VI). The procession was composed of several groups on foot or on horseback, which in a way formed smaller, allegorical tableaux within the procession. The procession also included two large mechanical apparatuses, designed to astonish the public. These were the Chariot of Venus (group III) and the Mount Parnassus (group VIII). The Chariot of Venus moved seemingly on its own, with the aid of a hidden mechanism. Count Carl Gustav had acquired the chariot, made by Johann Hautsch in Nuremberg, in 1649. Even the Mount Parnassus seemed to move on its own.

The steeds of the horsemen are shown either in normal stride or in courbette, which is not a coincidence: it demonstrated greatest possible skill in controlling one's horse. Good horsemanship was of paramount importance in the upbringing of kings and princes; e.g. King Carl XII, son of Queen Christina's cousin Carl Gustav, was known as an excellent horseman.

The presumed artist of the scroll, Nicolas Vallari, was born in France and died after 1673, but the exact dates are so far unknown. Vallari is said to have been a Capuchin monk at a monastery in Italy, where he fled from to Holland and became a protestant. In 1646 Vallari was in Stockholm, apparently employed by the Queen's favourite, Count Magnus Gabriel De la Gardie. Soon after, Vallari was working for the Queen and from the beginning of 1647 onwards he in included in the payrolls of the Crown. From documentary sources we know that Nicolas Vallari painted portraits of the Queen as well as ceiling and wall decorations, especially in the several palaces of Magnus Gabriel De la Gardie. No trace that could the authenticated with certainty survives, however, of these paintings.

In 1659 Nicolas Vallari prepared the designs for the court ballets, and the following year he designed two triumphal arches that were to be erected in Stockholm to celebrate Queen Christina's coronation. Only one of these was completed, however, constructed of timber, cloth, wax and plaster. In 1654 Vallari designed decorations for the coronation of Christina's successor, Carl X Gustav. Following the abdication of Queen Christina, Vallari mainly worked for Magnus Gabriel De la Gardie, but quarrels over payments finally led him to leave the country in 1673.

Because this scroll is unique - it is painted on parchment, not an altogether cheap material - and if we accept the attribution to Painter to the Crown Nicolas Vallari - which is reasonable: which other artist would have had the means and the possibility? - the question irresistibly poses itself: Who commissioned this painting? Almost as irresistibly the answer must be: Count Palatine, Carl Gustav - who other would have had any interest in the documentation of the procession than the person who had paid for it? He also, as few others, would have had the possibility to employ the court painter. Magnus Gabriel De la Gardie did try to monopolize Vallari's services by the numerous decorations he ordered for his palaces, but it would not have been in his interest to have this scene painted - he had, after all, taken part in the festivities with a procession of his own. If the scroll had been ordered by the Queen herself, it is possible that she would have taken it with her when she left Sweden in 1654. Thus it would seem plausible to assume that Carl (X) Gustav has ordered the painting to be made for himself, as a document of the procession.

The term 'carrousel' has sometimes been used to describe this scene. The term does apply to similar festive, theatrical processions and tournaments, which were arranged occasionally also in Sweden even during the reign of the Vasa kings in the 16th century. However, the term should not be applied to these or in conjunction with Queen Christina, since the term was coined only after 1662, when the king of France, Louis XIV, arranged a two-day-tournament held in the park between the palaces of the Louvre and the Tuileries. This square is even today called Place du Carrousel - 'carrousel' meaning precisely this kind of tournament or the place where they were held. In Sweden the term carrousel is first used in 1672 in conjunction with the festivities (titled Certamen equestre) arranged to celebrate the coronation of King Carl XI.

According to the inscription at the bottom of the parchment scroll, it was donated to Borgå gymnasium on 6 July, 1842, by the English philologist and expert on ancient runic poems, George Stephens. George Stephens (1813-1895). Stephens moved to Stockholm in 1834 and worked as a teacher of English, while at the same time studying ancient Scandinavian languages and literature. He was a founding member of Svenska Fornskriftsällskapet (Swedish society for the study of ancient literature and texts, f. 1843), and in the mid-1840's he published a collection of Swedish folk tales as well as being involved in initiating the study of ancient Icelandic monuments. In 1851 Stephens moved to Copenhagen, where he received a chair at he university four years later. The year 1866 saw the publication of his most important work, a study on Scandinavian and English runic inscriptions. The provenance of the scroll with the scene from Queen Christina's coronation festivities is unknown, but it seems logical to assume that George Stephens has come across it while collecting material for his studies. The scroll was re-deposited at the National Board of Antiquities in 1979 by the decision of the Ministry of Education.

KM inv. no. 79077.

Jouni Kuurne