Kategoriarkiv: Literature

Tableau Vivant and Olof Södermark

Last week, Kerstin shared the travel diary of 10-year old Ernst Salomon. In the summer of 1841, Ernst and his family were visiting Särö, a fashionable spa on the Swedish west coast. In his diary, he describes the activities at the spa. Besides the bathing, they went for walks, picked seashells, and went horseback riding. In the evenings, the guests took turns hosting dinners and entertainment. There was usually a program of music and singing or dancing. They also played parlor games. One of those was Tableau Vivant. This was a common parlor game in the 1800s and is described in several diaries and letters from this time.

Tableau Vivant

Tableau Vivant was something like Charades. In Charades, a person will silently act out a word for the other persons to guess. In Tableau Vivant, the actor/actors will stage a scene from a play or a book or a poem or of a famous painting. The audience then has to figure out what the scene depicts.

Rosalie Roos, who was born in Sweden in 1823 and traveled to the USA in 1851 to become a governess, describes in her memoir how she introduced this game to the family she worked for and how much fun they had in searching for costumes and props to create the tableaux vivants.

The Tableau Vivant at Särö in 1841

Back to Ernst Salomon and his diary. On the 5th of August, Ernst wrote:

“Beautiful weather. In the evening, Baroness Berzelius, Mrs. Edholm, and Countess Virsén hosted le goûter (the tasting; dinner). Between the dances, 6 tableaux vivants were performed that were pretty successful. They were:

  1. A Scene from Lalla Rookh
  2. Candlelight by Rembrandt
  3. Pastoral Concert by Södermark
  4. Fortuneteller scene by Teniers
  5. A Scene from The Pirate by Walter Scott
  6. Saint Cecilia by Carlo Dolci

The 6th one featured spiritual singing behind the curtains.”

First, I was amazed at the choices for this quiz-type game. If you belonged to the class who visited this spa, these were the authors and painters you were supposed to be familiar with. And even 10-year-old Ernst thought the game was a success.

I decided to find the images that they were supposed to stage. Here it goes:

1. A Scene from Lalla Rookh

Lalla Rookh was a very long poem written by Thomas Moore in 1817. It was a romantic, orientalist tale about a Mughal princess. The poem was very popular in the early 1800s.

Lalla Rookh

2. Candlelight by Rembrandt

I assume that this could have been Rembrandt’s painting of a student at a table by candlelight


Student at a Table by Candlelight. Rembrandt, 1642.


3. Pastoral Concert by Södermark

Let’s skip this one to the last.

4. Fortune-teller Scene by Teniers

David Teniers the Younger painted a lot of fortune-teller scenes, but they were all similar.

Mountain Landscape with a Gypsy Fortuneteller. David Teniers II. 1644-1690.

4. A Scene from The Pirate by Walter Scott

Walter Scott wrote The Pirate in 1822. It was translated to Swedish in 1827. I should probably add it to my reading list.

The Pirate. Illustration from the 1879 edition.

5. Saint Cecilia by Carlo Dolci

Saint Cecilia at the Organ. Carlo Dolci, 1671.

3. Pastoral Concert by Södermark

So let me return to Number 3, Pastoral Concert (Swedish: Landtlig Concert) av Olof Södermark.

Olof Södermark was a fantastic Swedish portrait painter. He had painted members of the royal family, and he was in high demand by the Swedish elite. He had also studied with the premier portraiture painter in Europe, Franz Xaver Winterhalter. In the fall of 1841, he would return to Sweden from Rome and settle down to do portraits. Within the next two years (1842-1843), he would actually paint the husbands of two of the women who had hosted the dinner and the tableau vivant. Baroness Berzelius’s husband was the famous chemist, Jöns Jacob Berzelius and Mrs. Edholm’s husband was Erik af Edholm, the king’s private doctor.

Jöns Jacob Berzelius painted by Olof Södermark 1843
Erik af Edholm painted by Södermark 1842

But did Södermark also paint landscapes and other genres? The problem with Södermark is that only a few of his paintings are in museums or other public places – portraits like those of the royal family or of famous people like Jenny Lind. To find his other works, one has to look for what has been sold at auctions.

The only “landscape” painting I have found is Fishing on the Pier (Swedish: Fiske på bryggan), painted in 1838.  I would love to learn about the history of this painting. Who are the people in the painting?

Fishing on the Pier. Painting by Olof Södermark 1838

I am sure he also painted “A Pastoral Concert”, but how would I search for it? Google is of no help. I decide to search for Södermark in Swedish newspapers between 1832 and 1838. Maybe someone would have written about the painting?

Bingo! A journalist (Orvar Odd) at Aftonbladet wrote about the paintings exhibited at the Salon of The Royal Swedish Academy of Fine Arts in 1838. Södermark had 3 paintings accepted.

”Mr. Södermark is exhibiting 3 paintings; two portraits and a genre painting showing three children, the oldest being a girl playing the mandolin, the next one playing castanets, and the youngest, a boy with curly hair, using all his strength blowing into a bagpipe. It is a charming piece, this last one. The shapes and the colors are so southern European and opulent, full and glowing, it’s alive, it’s vibrant! Mr. S. undoubtedly possesses, to a greater degree than any of our other painters in his genre, the art of making his characters come alive.”

This has to be ”A Pastoral Concert” and as he painted it in Rome, the scene is probably from Italy. I do wish I could still find an image of the painting. I did find another small painting he did in Rome – a sweet painting of two Italian girls.

Roman Girls by Olof Södermark

Going back to the Tableaux Vivants, I wish someone could have described how they staged these six scenes. Maybe they were common scenes for this form of entertainment – pretty easy to stage: An exotic princess, a student with a candle, 3 children playing some instruments, a fortune-teller, a pirate, and a saint. I wonder what paintings or books or films we would pick today for this game?

Thou Ancient, Thou Free


The paper, STOCKHOLMS FIGARO, of which the first issue hereby is presented to the public, will be published during the year 1845, every Sunday afternoon, and will be available these days between noon and 2 in the afternoon in Bonnier’s Bookstore at the Bazar, with the entrance on the side.

Well, I thought, what a cool coincident! This year, 1845, was the year when Augusta was a debutante and coming out into society, which meant going to balls, and attending concerts and the theatre. This brand new weekly magazine sold itself as an artistic and belletristic Sunday paper. It would have articles about art, literature, and theatre both in Sweden and abroad. Subscribers could also look forward to a monthly extra insert – a small poster of a famous singer or dancer or of the latest fashion. Or the insert could be musical notes for some new or popular piece of music that one could then learn to play on one’s pianoforte.

The Stockholm Figaro, December 1844

So where could I find copies of this weekly magazine? First I learned that the magazine was short-lived. It was only published in December of 1844 through the end of 1847. But that was perfect; Augusta’s late teenage years. Then I found out that the magazine was only available at Sweden’s Royal Library (Sweden’s library of congress). And you would have to order it and read it at the library.

This morning, I was at the library as soon as they had pulled the books from the archives. It was exciting to open the bound copies of the 175-year-old magazines.

But with a total of 3 years x 52 weeks x about 7 pages each, I would have to look at 1092 pages. That meant looking at, not reading. I decided to quickly scan for interesting topics and also to take pictures of the weekly column called “What’s New?” (Hvad Nytt?). It seemed to be a summary of literary, musical, and theatrical news in Stockholm.

The monthly inserts were also interesting. I can imagine young girls (and guys) framing the portraits of young beautiful actresses, dancers, and singers.  And then there were the music sheets. You could be the first one to learn the Tivoli Gallop or the aria from the opera The Black Domino!

Poster of the top 5 singers in Stockholm in 1845

But there was also a piece of sheet music with the title of Swedish Folksong from Jemtland. The text started with “Thou ancient, thou free” (Swedish:  Du gamla, du fria).

Du gamla, du fria (Thou ancient, Thou free)

What? This is the beginning of the Swedish National Anthem!

I looked at the whole page and both the melody and the text were that of the Swedish National Anthem. Had I missed this in some history class – that our national anthem was actually a Swedish Folksong that got a new text in 1845?

When I got home, I did some research.

The national anthem was written by Richard Dybeck in 1844 to the music of a folk melody that he had heard in his home province and is actually considered to be a ballad from the middle ages. The song with Dybeck’s text was first performed in Stockholm at a soirée at Kirsteinska Huset in De la Croix Salon on the 13th of November 1844. The soirée was advertised by Richard Dybeck as an Evening Entertainment with Nordic Folk Music. It turned out to be a success. It was an almost sold-out performance and the King and the Queen were in attendance. Was Augusta also there? It is possible.

The song became popular, which is probably why it was included as an insert in the Stockholm Figaro a year later (16 November 1845).

Over the years, this song has just become the Swedish national anthem even though it has never formally been declared as such.

This topic was not what I thought I would learn about today, but sometimes research isn’t a straight road – it’s more like taking a scenic bypass.

I wish he may go to the East Indies, that I may have my shawl.

Jane Austen died 200 years ago and her legacy is celebrated this year with exhibitions and events. Kerstin and I visited Skokloster Castle last week. Their exhibition, Jane Austen’s World, featured costumes worn in Austen’s movies, including the famous soaked shirt worn by Mr Darcy in Pride and Prejudice. A theme in the exhibition was marriage as a guarantor of family survival. Girls’ education focused on studies that would secure a future husband.

Our Augusta was fortunate in that she had a wealthy benefactor – her brother-in-law, Gustaf Lejdenfrost. She was not eager to get married, and when she did fall in love with her future husband, Lejdenfrost was also not in favor of her getting married. He would make sure that she could live comfortably without having to get married.

In the spirit of the Jane Austen celebration, I decided to re-read Mansfield Park. The following quote made me smile because it was so timely:

”Fanny, William must not forget my shawl, if he goes to the East Indies; and I shall give him a commission for anything else that is worth having. I wish he may go to the East Indies, that I may have my shawl. I think I will have two shawls, Fanny.”

For the last couple of days, Kashmir shawls have been on my mind. I guess, having a relative travelling to the East Indies would have been the way you would get one. If you were not fortunate to get a real Kashmir shawl, you might be able to get a locally produced copy.

I wrote about my hunt for Paisley shawls in May; then 3 weeks ago, my travels took me to Edinburgh. The first day, we did some sightseeing and visited charity and antique shops. It was there, in a back room, on top of a pile of other textiles that I spotted the now so familiar paisley pattern. I started pulling in the pile and realized that it was an antique shawl – with a few holes and matted fringes. What would you expect with a, maybe, 180-year-old shawl? The shop keeper and I agreed on a price and she stuffed the shawl into a plastic bag for me.

It wasn’t until we got home that I realized the size and beauty of this shawl. And it wasn’t until I got back to DC, and spent an afternoon in the textile library at The George Washington University that I realized that my shawl seems quite unique among published pictures of Kashmir and Paisley shawls. Since then I have spent many hours scrolling through online images of genuine Kashmir shawls and those made in France and the UK during the 1800s. I have also been reading all I can find about the shawl industry in Edinburgh and Paisley. I am no closer to assessing where and when the shawl was made. There is one tell-tales though: as I can discern, the warp is silk, which points to a European made shawl.

So here is the beauty, annotated with name of the parts of a Kashmir shawl:

My Paisley Shawl
My Paisley Shawl


The shawl is 306 cm long. The width at one end is 154 cm and at the other, 157 cm. The warp is silk and the weft is wool. According to historical records from Paisley, there was also a fine lace cotton thread used in the ground color weft for added strength – called a “sma’ shot”.


The silk warp is dyed in 3 different colors: gold, light red, and light yellow. Besides the ground color (cream), there are 4 colors used in the weft: crimson, light red, olive, and a very light turquoise.


The shawl is woven in 3:1 twill which can be seen in the fringe gate.

3:1 Twill
3:1 Twill

This is typical of European shawls; genuine Kashmir shawls are woven in 2:2 twill. The back side is typical of the European shawls in that the loose wefts were clipped and removed after the shawl was taken off the loom. This reduced the weight of the final shawl.


The typical “harlequin fringe gates”, those colorful squares at the end of the shawl, are 2 cm high. When harlequin gates first appeared on shawls in the 1820s, this is how high they were. They then became larger – having doubled in height by 1845 – and they were more ornate.

The Fringe Gate
The Fringe Gate

The field is quite large and cream (pale) colored. The pallu is also quite large with 8 tall, intricate butas (paisley shapes). What is so beautiful with this shawl are the stylistic flowers and fronds that stretch into the plain, cream-colored field. According to Rehman and Jafri, this motif started to appear on European shawls in the 1830s.

Augusta's Journey Paisley Shawl
Augusta’s Journey Paisley Shawl

Final notes

I would love to find out more about this shawl – nailing down the time period and the manufacturing site. Was is made on a draw-loom or on a Jacquard loom? And should I mend the holes?

While reading about the shawl manufacturing in Paisley, I realized the similarities with Norrköping and the life of Augusta. Both Paisley and Norrköping were textile towns that flourished in the 1800s. Paisley had long been a center for linen and wool textiles – and even silk manufacturing. In the 1820s, the Paisley shawl manufacturing was taking off. Unfortunately, shawl manufacturing was just about the only industry in Paisley and, when fashion changed and demand declined, there was no alternative work for those employed in the industry. By 1880, the manufacturing of Paisley shawls had come to an end.

Augusta lived a privileged life in Norrköping because of the wool mills and the textile industry. Her brother in law and benefactor owned a wool mill as did her cousin’s husband. So, did fashion in Norrköping at this time also dictate large wool shawls? And if so, were they aware of the European fashion of Kashmir shawls? Or did they buy locally produced shawls?

I wish I knew.

Below are some more images of the shawl:

Back side of gallery
Back side of gallery
Close up of gallery
Close up of gallery
Fringe gate from back side
Fringe gate from back side
Fringe gate
Fringe gate

Göta Canal: Day 2 – Söderköping to Motala

Day 2 of our cruise started in Söderköping. This is where Augusta boarded the paddle-steamer Götheborg in August 1850. And here we were, 167 years later, following her travels with her diary as a guide. She was 23 years old, and wrote in her diary that as soon as the boat was moving, she set out to assess her fellow travelers. She was not impressed; instead, she resorted to reading the recently published and popular novel, A Rumor, by Emilie Flygare-Carlen. I was of course curious about the novel and had bought an antique copy of the book and brought along just in case I needed something to read.

Of course I could not read. Our boat was gliding through the canal and giving us a close-up view of summer meadows and bright yellow fields of blooming rapeseed, groves of aspen and birch trees, and cows grazing among yellow buttercups and purple cranesbill. Instead of reading, I stood in the bow with my Nikon camera, trying to catch all the colors. Maybe Augusta would have loved that.

Local colors
Local colors

And then, out of sudden, a young dear jumped into the canal, swam across, and jumped up on the other side. Then it was almost out of sight in the tall, green grass.

In this paradise, the only man-made sound was the humming of Juno’s engine. The most amazing sound, that we all marveled over, was the repertoire of the nightingale. The little bird was still singing even though the sun had been up since 4 am. June in Sweden is amazing.

We were making good time, which created a small dilemma when we reached the little town of Norsholm a bit too early. At Norsholm, both the main railroad and the E4 highway between Stockholm and southern Sweden cross Göta Canal. The E4 bridge is very high and we hardly even noticed the bridge. But the railroad bridge has to open for canal boats and for this, timing relative to the train schedules is essential. As we were a little early, the crew took the opportunity to bring the recyclable trash to the appropriate containers close by, and to pick up some groceries as well. Augusta would have wondered about all this!

After Norsholm we entered Lake Roxen and now it was time for lunch.  An appetizer of bread with cheeses and herring was followed by plum baked farmhouse pork with black currant jelly, herb fried potatoes and gravy. We paired it with local IPA beers. The small dining room, with white linen table cloths and fresh flowers, made us remember our etiquette rules and Kerstin and I tried our best to get our wide skirts out of the way, sit straight, and not spill any black currant jelly on our dresses.

As we were waiting for the main course, we heard a loud rattling sounds of chains – was it the boat’s steering mechanism? We asked our most wonderful hostess who laughed and explained that it was the chains of the food elevator that was bringing up our plates from the pantry below. Fascinating!

We had barely finished our meal when we reached the most famous set of locks on the entire canal – the Carl Johan Staircase at Berg. But while Juno was climbing up the 7 connected locks, we had another surprise.

-I will come and meet you at Berg locks, she had said. Just look for a farm hand wearing a big black hat. I will be biking along the canal with my old rake.

The farmhand
The farmhand

Our good friend is a kindred spirit! There she was, just as promised, biking and waving! Soon we also realized that she might have called the regional newspaper (click on the link to see the video and read the article in Swedish). We were delighted to share our excitement about Augusta’s Journey with the journalist and photographer. What made it even more interesting was that we were now very close to the parish where Augusta was born (Slaka, Östergötland) – so Augusta’s Journey was really local news.

As the rest of Juno’s passengers had made an excursion to a local abbey and were not back yet, Kerstin and I strolled along the canal in the sunshine. Our parasols finally came in handy.

Photo credit: Pelle Johansson
Photo credit: Pelle Johansson

At Heda locks, we all made it back on board. Our captain treated us to a trumpet solo of a Swedish summer hymn while the cruise hostesses had picked bouquets of wildflowers for the dining room. We soon settled on deck to have our afternoon coffee while taking in the ever-changing view of the landscape.

Suddenly we noticed the first of two aqueducts.  The canal was on a bridge spanning over a highway. It must have been a sight for the drivers below to see an old canal boat move along on the bridge above! The aqueducts are fairly recent additions to Göta Canal but Thomas Telford, the Scottish engineer who was the architect of Göta Canal, had already built an aqueduct for a canal in Wales; the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct is now a UNESCO world heritage site.

The next interesting lock was at Borensberg. This is the only hand-maneuvered lock left. All the other locks are electronically maneuvered by local lock tenders. As our cruise was early in the season and the canal was not yet open for private yachts and boats, we realized that Juno had a lock tender that drove ahead to each upcoming lock.

After crossing Lake Boren, we reached our stop for the night – Motala. The sky had taken on a beautiful red hue as the sun was setting. Kerstin and I decided to take a walk in this little picturesque town before ending the day with a cold IPA on deck. Another memorable day!

Juno in Motala
Juno in Motala

How boring it is to be ill … but Wilhelm von Braun writes humorous poems

In the summer of 1849, I was mostly at home except for a few weeks spent at Fullerstad and a few days at Krusenhof. August was very ill throughout the summer and the joy and well-being during that time were rare guests at Loddby. The last days of the year, I had a violent rush of blood to my lungs, and was sick for 3 weeks.  A thousand times I exclaimed with Braun:

How boring, so boring it is to be ill
woe it’s invention, nevertheless, still
time passes by, as time’s wont to do,
But slowly, damned slowly, time passes through.

(Attempt at translating Wilhelm von Braun’s poem Fantasi på sjuksängen).

This is the first diary entry where we learn that Augusta had tuberculosis, or consumption. Her brother August was also ill and we don’t know what he was afflicted with that summer. Fullerstad was the home of Augusta’s dear relatives, the Schuberts, and Krusenhof was the home of her best friends, the Hjorts.

But who was Wilhelm von Braun who wrote poetry that a 22-year-old girl would have memorized? Well, at that time he was one of Sweden’s most popular poets. And not all of his poems would have been suitable for young women :).

Wilhelm von Braun (1813-1860), like Paul Wahlfelt and other officer friends of Augusta, got his early education in the cadet school at Karlberg’s military academy in Stockholm. This was a boarding school for boys, usually from privileged families. Wilhelm followed the tradition of his father, and was enrolled at Karlberg at 15 years of age in 1828. After graduating in 1834, and for the next 7 years, he served as a lieutenant.

But his passion was poetry and prose. He published his first poetry in the Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet in 1834. In 1849 he wrote a story called Napoleon, the Adventure of a Cadet, which was based on his experiences at Karlberg. In 1846, he resigned his commission as a lieutenant to be a full-time writer.

Von Braun is presently having a renaissance. There is now a Wilhelm von Braun Association who has published the book Wilhelm von Braun – The one that ladies never read (”Den där som damerna aldrig läst”). And while reading the book, one can enjoy a glass of Wilhelm von Braun’s Punsch, a traditional Swedish cordial, produced in honor of this national poet.

I am glad that Augusta still got to enjoy the poems suitable for women, and those that provided humor for young girls suffering with consumption.


Sources (in Swedish):


www.tam-arkiv.se/share/proxy/alfresco…/ASU_207.pdf  (Kadettminnen av överste Claes Bratt)

Fantasi på Sjuksängen i Samlade Arbeten af Wilhelm v. Braun, Del 1 (pdf of book available free online)

http://www.culturum.se/Braun/2StPunsc.htm (Wilhelm von Brauns Punsch)

Featured image is part of an oil painting by Antonio Mancini (1852-1930), Resting, 1887. http://www.artic.edu/aic/collections/artwork/artist/Mancini,+Antonio