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  • Introduction
  • Anita Göransson (bio)

During the eighteenth century the transition from a household-based society to a market-based, individualist one was felt in various ways in Sweden. The essays in this forum discuss aspects of several social processes during this period: the gradual emergence of the private-public distinction, the emergence of professional social closure and institutionalization, and the development of the self-reflective individual subject. In Swedish history the period between 1718 and 1772 is called the Age of Liberty, referring to the relative autonomy of the parliament. After military defeats and the loss of Sweden’s position as one of the great powers in Europe, the Swedish king’s political position was very much reduced to the benefit of two competing political blocs in parliament, the Hats and the Caps. This probably added to the efforts of the new Queen Lovisa Ulrika to increase the glory and political power of her husband and herself. After her husband’s succession to the throne she immediately became the central force in a political court party, which in 1756 actually attempted a coup d’état. But more successfully she also invested her time and money in ways designed to support the royal aspiration to represent enlightenment and national glory.

In her essay Merit Laine discusses Lovisa Ulrika’s work on creating the image of the monarch as an enlightened patron of the arts and sciences. In her own summer palace, Drottningholm, Lovisa Ulrika initiated and sponsored the interior decoration of the palace and most particularly organized rooms for her great collections of art, books, coins, minerals, and natural history, where the artifacts and their systematic arrangement served to connect the royal couple with modern science and an enlightened attitude. In other words, Lovisa Ulrika was very consciously amassing symbolic values and elaborating the representation of the royal power in a Habermasian sense. She used early modern scientific systematization—conspicuous collecting if you like—to enhance the glory of the king’s traditional representation. Laine argues that in contrast to other European palaces, Drottningholm was constructed not as an expression of the status quo but as an argument for change and a demonstration of the royal couple’s competence in ruling the whole country—had they been allowed to. The royal collections were not inaccessible to a wider public. Their representative purpose would not have been served if they were not [End Page 491] displayed and publicized. Historians and writers and other people outside the court used the collections. They assumed a character that might perhaps be called semi-public.

Another aspect of the emerging modernity was the constituting of professional fields. The expanding knowledge in various societal fields led to increased specialization and need for education. Access to the new positions and institutions became a matter of intense competition, and here gender turned out to be a useful criterion for social closure. The founding of academies—that both Lovisa Ulrika and her son Gustav III were engaged in—may be seen as a stepping-stone to professionalization. They formed a tie between the central power (the king and state) and the developing bases of knowledge in society, created a visible arena for its social agents, and initiated the construction of a value hierarchy within the emerging field. In short, they controlled and in part even created the symbolic values of the field.

In her essay Anna Lena Lindberg discusses the constitution of the art world as a professional field. In its early days the Swedish Royal Academy of Arts acknowledged the value and equal status of all genres and artists. Both amateurs and professionals, men and women took part in Academy exhibitions, won medals, and became members of the Academy. The symbolic capital as well as the access to the emerging bourgeois public sphere seemed to be formally classless and genderless. Lindberg discusses the gradual separation and marginalization of textile art from other art forms in the construction of a hierarchy of genres, where painting was placed as the core of fine art.

Her example—embroidered landscapes—is doubly interesting as it shows how blurred the genres were at one time. Embroidered art works would imitate other techniques like...

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pp. 491-493
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