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  • An Eighteenth-Century Minerva: Lovisa Ulrika and her Collections at Drottningholm Palace 1744–1777
  • Merit Laine (bio)

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Figure 1.

Lorentz Pasch the younger (Swedish, 1733–1805), Queen Lovisa Ulrika of Sweden. 1767. Oil on canvas, 76.5 x 63 cm. Swedish National Art Museums, Drottningholm Collection, Drh 501. Photo Swedish National Art Museums (Stockholm).

On the eighth of August 1744 Lovisa Ulrika (1720–1782, fig. 1), sister of Frederick the Great of Prussia, arrived in Sweden. 1 While still on board the ship that had carried her from Rügen to Karlskrona, she received a visit from her husband Adolf Fredrik of Holstein-Gottorp [End Page 493] (1710–1771), heir to the Swedish throne. The couple had already been married a few weeks, but this was the first time they met; at the wedding ceremony in Berlin the bridegroom had been represented by a brother of the bride, August Wilhelm of Prussia. Some days after Lovisa Ulrika’s arrival in Sweden, the nuptials were celebrated at Drottningholm palace outside Stockholm, and soon after this event the Swedish king Fredrik I transferred the fief of Drottningholm to the bride. Adolf Fredrik and Lovisa Ulrika had a very happy marriage, for they had many interests in common, of which building, interior decoration and the laying out of gardens were some of the most important. With Drottningholm, a Baroque masterpiece by the architects Nicodemus Tessin the elder and the younger, they were provided with the most magnificent setting for such activities that Sweden could offer. The estate remained the site for both Lovisa Ulrika’s and her husband’s most ambitious projects for almost thirty years. 2 There seems to be no doubt that she was the ruling spirit, as she also was in their political endeavors. Indeed, there is no sharp dividing line [End Page 494] between these two fields. During her years as crown princess and queen, Lovisa Ulrika did her best to increase the practically nonexistent power of the king, and Drottningholm gradually became a means for visual political communication and persuasion. 3

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Figure 2.

Unknown artist, Plan of the main floor at Drottningholm Palace. 1766. Pen, ink and red watercolor on paper, 36.7 x 85.5 cm. The Royal Library, National Library of Sweden (Stockholm), Dept. of Maps and Pictures, Architectural Drawings, Drottningholm. Photo The Royal Library.

The Baroque palace, with its interiors and gardens, are expressions of the absolutism of the preceding century and glorify the military heroes and patrons of the arts of the Pfalz dynasty. This character was carefully preserved by Lovisa Ulrika, but at the same time she made changes and additions that turned the estate of Drottningholm as a whole into a visualization of her own aims and ideals. 4 Among the new interiors she commissioned are the rooms created to house her collections of coins and medals, paintings, antiquities, books and manuscripts, and objects of natural history. Here she presented herself and her husband as patrons of literature, art, and science. The collection rooms are located on the main floor of the palace, between the king’s and queen’s apartments (fig. 2). The first version was carried out in the 1740s and 1750s, and with one exception they were completely redecorated during the following decade. These interiors have been left intact, and starting from the queen’s apartment, they comprise library, study, the cabinet of coins and medals (the only one unchanged), the cabinet of minerals, and the cabinet of natural history. The decoration shows influences of the styles of Louis XVI and le goût grec, and this, together with the restrained coloring in shades of white, gray, brown and gold, sets these interiors apart from the rest of the royal apartments which were richly and colorfully decorated in Baroque and Rococo styles. Lovisa Ulrika often mentioned Drottningholm and her various collections in her correspondence, and her letters are our most important source of knowledge of how she regarded her acquisitions and the works of art and architecture that she commissioned. 5 In 1749 she described the projects at Drottningholm to her sister Amalie, and added...

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