Friday, October 26, 2012

Turning the Corner from the 17th to the 18th Centuries

In my next post, I will be turning the corner from the 17th to the 18th century.  But before I do, I wanted to take a minute to look at what the non-architectural cultural scene might have looked like in Stockholm during the 1600’s.

In Holland and Spain, the likes of Vermeer, Rubens, van Dyck, Rembrant, and Velazquez were painting their way through the 1600’s.  However, Sweden didn’t seem to have any heavyweights on the artistic scene.  Instead, the Swedish art world was focused on creating and decorating important buildings, and many of the period’s artists were engaged in creating murals and friezes in the new palaces instead of painting on canvas.  This was certainly the case with Johan Sylvius and David Klöcker Ehrenstrahl who were engaged in the artistic work at the new Drottningholm Palace just outside of Stockholm.   
Sylvius left and Ehrenstrahl right.
Otherwise, Swedish paintings tended to be rather formal portraits.   
Ehrenstrahl's self portrait, Michale Dahl's self portrait, and King Karl XII by David von Krafft.
Another important source of art in Sweden was war booty.  As Sweden fought and won many overseas wars throughout the 17th century, important art collections were brought back to the country.

I also have not been able to find much in the way of Swedish music from this period.  In other European countries, music composition was transitioning from Renaissance madrigals to early Baroque operas and choir pieces.  The German Heinrich Schuzt wrote the first German opera, and you can listen to one of his pieces here.  Another German, Johann Pachelbel, wrote his famous Canon in D.  Henry Purcell was the first English composer and wrote many operas.  I found that the majority of important composers during the 17th century were Italian: Marco da Galiano, Claudio Monteverdi, Girolamo Frescobaldi,  and Franceso Cavalli,  who wrote an opera in celebration of the marriage of France’s Louis XIV.

It is also interesting to note that while Sweden was expanding its territory around the Baltic Sea, Europe was expanding its horizons across the oceans.  The Dutch East India Company was founded in 1602, Jamestown in Virginia was founded in 1607, the Mayflower landed at Cape Cod in 1620, and Europeans first sighted Australia and New Zealand during the 17th century.  Other 17th century European news of note included the uniting of Scotland and England when King James VI of Scotland was crowned on the English throne.  Likewise, in 1682, Peter the Great ascended Russia’s throne.  Although literary giant Shakespeare died in 1616, both John Locke and Renee Descartes hit their philosophical strides during this time period.

I realize that this is an extremely cursory look at non-architectural culture and current events from the 1600's, but I do hope that it has painted an at least somewhat broader picture of what was going on in Sweden and Europe while Stockholm was getting its first urban plan, a new waterfront to greet the world, a new ship-building facility, and numerous new churches and palaces financed by Sweden's economic and military dominance in the Baltic region.

This Wikipedia page has info on the who’s who of Swedish art: and has info on just about every composer ever.

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