Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Another Bernadotte exhibition at the National Museum

On the occasion of the Bernadotte dynasty’s bicentennial the National Museum of Fine Arts in Stockholm will not only show the great exhibition “Härskarkonst” (“Staging Power”) about Carl XIV Johan, Napoléon I and Aleksandr I, but also a smaller exhibition titled “Bernadotter i svart och vitt” (“Bernadottes in black and white”).
As the name indicates this exhibition will consist of black and white portraits of members of the Bernadotte dynasty – primarily photos, but also prints and drawings – and thereby also present a history of Swedish photography.
The advent of photography and the royal family’s adaption of it was a central theme in the doctoral dissertation of the current director general of the National Museum, Solfrid Söderlind, a book which is well worth reading.
The exhibition will open on 16 June and close on 23 January (which is now also the closing date of “Härskarkonst”, which has been somewhat prolonged).
Above is the oldest known photo of a Bernadotte, showing King Oscar I in 1844, the year of his accession to the thrones of Sweden and Norway.


  1. Sorry but this looks like a photograph of a portrait rather than an actual photograph

  2. You are wrong, it is indeed a photo of Oscar I, not a photo of a portrait. And please respect the rule that comments should be signed - preferably by a name, but an initial or a nick will also be accepted.

  3. Has anybody commented on this already? It does look like a painting that has been photographed and very unlike other photos from that period. A comparison with other portraits of Oscar I will show this. Who verified the photo as such? Probably more careful research is needed!

    This link shows lithograph of Oscar I dating from 1844. It is a perfect match with the photograph. And given the rarety of photographs in the 1840s it is more likely that the photo was taken of the lithograph/painting than of the king himself, as an experiment.
    But are there any documentary records that the king sat for a photograph at this time?

  5. Edward Smythe-Fortescue4 August 2010 at 00:19

    I agree with 'Nick'.

  6. The bad state of the picture may accord for some doubt, but we know that the daguerrotype technique was demonstrated for the royal family in the Hereditary Prince's Palace as early as 1840 and there is documentary proof that Oscar I and his family sat for the photographer Joseph Weninger on 25 June 1843 and for another one, called Derville, in the middle of May 1844. There is also a surviving photo of Count Magnus Brahe, the Marshal of the Realm, which must be from the latter occasion (he died just thereafter) and is quite similar to the one of Oscar I posted above.

  7. Thank you for the extra information. Excuse my stubborn scepticism, but light fell on the skin differently with daguerreotypes and this looks, to me, too much like a two-dimensional image (you might like to compare it with other 1840s daguerreotype images - e.g. of King Louis-Philippe). I am willing to accord that this is the first photographed *image* of a Bernodotte; but that this is a direct photograph image of Oscar I is, I think, too great a leap of faith. After all, as you say, the technique was practised in the palace in 1843 before the prince's family. It would be indeed be nice if this were Derville's 1844 portrait but I think this is more probably a practice portrait of a portrait. The 1843 and 1844 portraits have still to be discovered in my opinion - and the discovery will be all the more interesting for all that!
    What would b the 'holy grail', would be a daguerreotype of King Charles XIV John!

  8. Well, regarding your first point I could again mention that the photo of Magnus Brahe is very much similar. But perhaps we should conclude that the question is open to doubt.

    Unfortunately there are no photos of Carl XIV Johan. This might have had to do with his being old and not particularly open to new ideas, but also with his being very vain and therefore probably not very keen on documenting for posterity what he really looked like in old age.

    The same goes for his widow Queen Desideria, who lived till 1860, but always refused to be photographed. The only photo on which she appears is thus taken on her deathbed and that was not published until more than a century after her death.


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