Monday, 8 November 2010

My latest article: The Royal Palace, Sweden and Russia

It is commonly stated in the literature on the Royal Palace in Oslo that its architect, Hans D. F. Linstow, was primarily influenced by Danish and German architecture. However, in her interesting book Monumentalarkitektur i Oslo (2008), Kari Hoel, professor of art history at the University of Oslo, argued that Swedish architecture had also been an inspiration and pointed towards Elghammar Manor in Sudermania, Sweden, as a building with a strong resemblance to the original designs for the Royal Palace (which were altered before completion). Professor Hoel is convinced that Linstow during one of his visits to King Carl Johan had seen the book Elghammar’s architect Giacomo Quarenghi had published about his works and drawn inspiration from it.
In an article in the latest issue of Kunst og Kultur (no 3-2010), the leading Norwegian art journal published by the National Museum, I investigate the theory further. While Kari Hoel only considered the façade I have also looked at the interiors and am thus able to point out that the Ceremonial Hall at the Royal Palace, which was one of the first interiors designed by Linstow, is almost an exact replica of the Grand Gallery at Elghammar. Obviously this strengthens the assumption that Linstow was familiar with Elghammar.
However, Elghammar, which was commissioned from Quarenghi by Curt von Stedingk when the latter was Sweden’s ambassador in Russia, is quite untypical of contemporary Swedish architecture. The Swedish building closest to Elghammar in style was the Bonde Mansion in Stockholm, which has been attributed to Erik Palmstedt (demolished in 1899). I point out some similarities between the Bonde Mansion and the Royal Palace which speak of another connection.
Also very interesting is Krontorp Manor in Wermlandia, which is almost a miniature version of Elghammar. It stands out clearly from Swedish manor architecture and has more in common with Norwegian manors of the early 19th century. Krontorp was commissioned by a courtier to house King Carl Johan on his travels between his two capitals and the interesting thing is that the building, which was erected at the same time as the Royal Palace in Oslo was begun, traditionally has been attributed to none other than Linstow.
Some art historians have in recent years argued that Krontorp’s architect might rather have been Fredrik Blom, Carl Johan’s favourite Swedish architect, but I point out several factors speaking against Blom and in favour of Linstow. If the Linstow attribution is correct, Krontorp could be seen as the “missing link” between Elghammar and the Palace.
I also look at some other relevant buildings of interest – among them the Palladian Villa Pisani in Stra, which may well have inspired Quarenghi – and reach the conclusion that while Elghammar and Krontorp are certainly related to the Royal Palace in Oslo, they are untypical of Swedish architecture of the time in the same way as Quarenghi’s works are in many ways untypical of Russian architecture of the epoch – however, Linstow’s architecture certainly has things in common with Quarenghi’s. Any architectural influences from Sweden and Russia on the Royal Palace should therefore be seen as coming from individual buildings rather than larger national trends.
The article includes twelve illustrations of altogether nine buildings. Among them are the façades of, from the top, Elghammar Manor, the Royal Palace as it was projected, and Krontorp Manor.

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