Etikettarkiv: Berzelius

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?

The Silkworms at Bellevue

Bellevue in 1856. Oil painting by Erik Westerling (1819-1857).

May God Preserve our Silk Worms

Father told us last Monday when he was here, that the kind pastor, Mr. Lindström, who my sister and I have recently been acquainted with, had visited father at the palace that same day in order to ask if he could give us some silkworms that he couldn’t keep as he will spend the summer in Uppsala. Father had been kind to answer and thank him on our behalf, whereupon Mr. Lindstrom had promised to send them to us in a few days. Imagine our joy in owning these insects and being able to study their interesting transformations. May God preserve them for us because cultivating them requires special care of which none of us have any knowledge. (Lotten Ulrich’s diary, Stockholm, 31 May 1833, my translation)

Imagine my surprise when I approached the carton with the silkworms and only saw the two small, and instead of the two large worms, two cocoons of yellow silk. I immediately understood that they had started to spin. (Lotten Ulrich’s diary, Stockholm, 9 July 1833, my translation)

Lotten Ulrich (1806-1887) and her sister Edla Ulrich (1816-1897) lived at the Royal Palace in Stockholm where their father, Johan Christian Henrik Ulrich, was the secretary to King Carl XIV Johan. The family later moved to Norrköping. You can read more about them and their connection with Augusta in a previous blog entry.

So, was the silkworm an upper-class, exotic pet in the 1830s? And were there any mulberry trees in Stockholm so Lotten and Edla had something to feed them?

The Swedish Association for Domestic Sericulture

The Swedish Association for Domestic Sericulture, that is, silk farming, was founded in 1830. The driving force behind the association was a young woman by the name of Charlotte Östberg. She had previously, and anonymously, published a book about silk farming and she also practiced it in Stockholm. The founding members of the association were the husband of Charlotte Östberg and among others, professors Jacob Berzelius and Nils Wilhelm Almroth (the father of Augusta’s friends Ebba and Emma Almroth). By 1841, Professor Carl Henrik Boheman, the father of Augusta’s best friends Hildur and Hildegard Boheman) had also joined the board.

The Silk production at Bellevue

The association was to encourage silk production in Sweden by the planting of mulberry trees, to publish information on silkworm care and, depending on its means, provided those interested in silk production with plants and/or mulberry seeds. By 1841, the association had distributed over 50,000 seedlings.

The patron of the association was the Swedish Crown Princess Josephine. She was very much interested in silk production and her husband, Crown Prince Oscar, provided the association with land for planting mulberry trees at Bellevue, a royal park outside Stockholm. Bellevue thus became the center for teaching and promoting silk production in Stockholm.

Crown Princess Josephine’s award medal for the cultivation of silk. 1833.


By 1841, the association realized that only the wealthy had taken up silk production and then, only as an interesting hobby. Still, they concluded, that for the working class to take up silk production, the gentlemen must first cultivate mulberry trees and produce silk before the working class could profit from this new industry.

A thesis on the Swedish sericulture makes for very interesting reading. In summary, Sweden gave up on producing its own silk.

If it hadn’t been for a 190-year-old diary by a girl who described the delight in getting some silkworms, I would never have known about the forest of white mulberry trees at Bellevue in Stockholm. And if I was in Stockholm, I would make an outing to the park and look for any little mulberry tree. Maybe some stump or roots survived and sprouted new trees. From my experience, mulberry trees are almost impossible to get rid of – they really grow like weeds.


Drömmen om svenskt silke. Anders Johansson Åbonde.

Systrarna Ulrichs dagböcker. Margareta Östman.


Augusta’s friends, Emma and Ebba Almroth, who assisted Florence Nightingale during the Crimean War

I am back to reading Lotten’s letters. Lotten, Augusta’s friend from school, wrote long letters to Augusta, updating her on the latest gossip from Stockholm.

“You have to tell me if you once in a while get letters from Mrs. Edgren. Let me know how she and her husband and children are doing. Emma Almroth has had 4 letters from Mlle. Dethmar and also answered them.” (Lotten’s letter to Augusta, Stockholm, May 6, 1846)

Mrs. Edgren and her husband operated a school for girls in Stockholm between 1838 and 1844. Some students, like Augusta, boarded with the family Edgren. Mrs. Edgren was from Germany and her sister, Mlle. Dethmar, also lived with them.

Gossip About Engagements

“My dear, there are so many engagements here. At Mlle. Frigel’s school today, Ebba Almroth stated that Mlles. Schwan and Sjöstedt (the oldest) were engaged but with whom she didn’t want to say. It may well be true, but you know how girls gossip about engagements in Mlle. Frigel’s school.”(Lotten’s letter to Augusta, Stockholm, May 6, 1846)

When the Edgren school closed in 1844, many of the students, including Augusta, transferred to Mlle. Frigel’s school.

So who were the two girls, rumored to be engaged?

Mlle. Schwan must have been Elisabeth Schwan, born in 1828. She married Knut Cassel in 1850.

Mlle. Sjöstedt must have been Augusta Sjöstedt’s older sister Ophalia Carolina Göthilda, born in 1826. She married Georg Julius von Axelson in 1850.

If they both married in 1850, would they really have gotten engaged in 1846? Maybe the rumors were not true at all.

But who were Augusta’s and Lotten’s friends – Emma and Ebba Almroth? From Lotten’s letter above, it is clear that they first studied with Mrs. Edgren and then with Mlle. Frigel, just like Augusta.

Emma and Ebba Almroth

The view from Almroth's apartment at the corner of Klara Västra Kyrkogata and Stora Vattugränd.
The view from Almroth’s apartment at the corner of Klara Västra Kyrkogata and Stora Vattugränd.

To find Emma and Ebba, I start with the 1835 census records in Stockholm. I find the Almroth family right away. Emma Almroth was born in 1829 and Ebba was born in 1831. They also had an older brother, Nils Leo, who was born in 1824.

The family lived at House No. 11 on Klara Västra Kyrkogata, a block away from Mrs. Edgren’s school.

The father, Nils Wilhelm Almroth was a professor of chemistry, a good friend of Professor Jacob Berzelius, and the director of the Swedish Royal Mint. On his Swedish Wikipedia page, there is also a sentence about Emma and Ebba:

“Their daughters Ebba and Emma Almroth traveled during the Crimean War and worked as nurses under the supervision of Florence Nightingale during the siege of Sevastopol.”

Was it true? Yes, but with the exception that they were not nurses but rather Christian volunteers.

I remember very little from my history classes about the Crimean War and what Florence Nightingale actually did. Time to read up on the Crimean War. Thanks to the Christmas present from my son this year – a massive book on 100 years of European history from 1815 to 1914, I find what I need. Thanks Jonas!

The Crimean War and Florence Nightingale

"The Mission of Mercy: Nightingale receiving the wounded at Scutari" (1858). Painting by Jerry Barrett.
The Mission of Mercy: Nightingale receiving the wounded at Scutari. Painting by Jerry Barrett, 1858.

The Crimean war started in the fall of 1853 and ended in February 1856.

Russia, wanting more influence over the Balkan and ultimately access to the Mediterranean, invaded what is now Rumania, which was then under Ottoman control.

Together, France and Britain saw the Russian expansion as a threat to the trade route to India, the power balance in the Mediterranean, and the control over the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. In March of 1854, Britain and France joined the Ottoman Empire in declaring war on Russia.

Map of The Crimean War
Map of The Crimean War

France and Britain decided to attack Russia by invading Crimea. The aim was to destroy the Russian naval base at Sevastopol, thus reducing Russia’s naval power in the Black Sea. This strategy was also advantageous as France and Britain could easily send troops and supplies by sea. There were, however, additional military attacks on Russia elsewhere. For example, British warships entered the Baltic Sea and bombarded Bomarsund’s fortress on the island of Åland which at the time was under Russian control.

Detail showing Florence Nightingale, some other women, and a wounded soldier.

The Crimean war turned out to be a war where more soldiers died from disease than from battlefield wounds. It is estimated that out of the 258,000 soldiers who died during the war, 148,000 or 57% died of disease. Hospital conditions were horrific and the British military hospital in Scutari (Üsküdar) was overcrowded with sick and wounded soldiers. The London Times had a local correspondent who wrote about the incompetence of the staff and the outbreak of a cholera epidemic. Back in England, one of those who reacted to the news was 34-year-old, Florence Nightingale. On the 21th of October 1854, she and a staff of 38 volunteer nurses left Britain for Constantinople (Istanbul).

Ebba Almroth’s Book

A simple Google search leads me to a book written in English by Ebba Almroth: Sunbeams on my Path – or – Reminiscences of Christian Work in Various Lands.

The book starts with a description of Ebba’s childhood:

“My father was the Director of the Royal Mint and also held the position of Professor of Chemistry at the Royal Military School at Marieberg near Stockholm. He was generally acknowledged to be one of the leading scientific men of his time in Sweden.  …

My mother died when I was ten years old. My grief was so great that I wished earnestly to follow her, I felt so lonely.   …

My father took great pleasure in the education of my sister and myself. We attended the school of Frau Edgren, a German lady, wife of an excellent Swedish clergyman.

My school days were very happy. The teachers in Frau Edgren’s school did all in their power to instill the noble ambition into their pupils of a desire to excel in their studies.”

I almost jump out of my chair when I read Ebba’s description of Mrs. Edgren and her school! A published eyewitness account of Mrs. Edgren’s school!

Ebba’s biography continues with the events following her father’s death.

A note in the local newspaper about the Almroth sisters leaving for the Crimea. (Linköpings Tidningar, 20 JAN 1855.
A note in the local newspaper about the Almroth sisters leaving for the Crimea. (Linköpings Tidningar, 20 JAN 1855.

A French pastor visited the sisters and invited them to visit the Free Church of the Canton de Vaud in Lausanne, Switzerland. They left Stockholm in May 1854. In Lausanne, they met a British couple, the Rev. Dr. Blackwood and his wife, Lady Alicia Blackwood, who invited them to England. And so, in August of 1854, the sisters traveled with the Blackwoods to England. The same fall, Dr. Blackwood was appointed as Army Chaplain for the Hospitals of Constantinople and Scutari – the Crimean war hospitals. Ebba and Emma Almroth decided to accompany the Blackwoods and help out with the work among the sick and wounded. They left on the 6th of December 1854 and sailed from Marseilles to Constantinople where they arrived a few days before Christmas. Florence Nightingale and her staff had arrived just a month earlier.

The hospital in Scutari received wounded soldiers from the Crimea. In her book, Ebba describes how they visited the sick and dying but could do little for them. Many had frostbites with resulting gangrene which led to their deaths. The sisters helped the soldiers write their last letters to loved ones at home.

Florence Nightingale. Colored Lithograph by J. A. Vinter. Credit: Wellcome Library, London.
Florence Nightingale. Colored Lithograph by J. A. Vinter. Credit: Wellcome Library, London.

Florence Nightingale also asked Lady Alicia Blackwood and the Almroth sisters to look after the women and children who had accompanied the soldiers and lived “in the most abject misery” in dark cellars next to the hospital – around 260 women and babies. Ebba writes about some of the women that she overheard conversing in Swedish.

“I found there some Swedish women who informed us that they had accidentally been carried off with troops from the Åland Isles by the steamer which they had gone on board to bid farewell to some soldiers to whom they were betrothed.”

Ebba’s book, which is available online and written in English, is fascinating. It describes the sisters’ daily work during the war but also Ebba’s life after the end of the war. Once peace was proclaimed, the sisters and the Blackwoods took a steamer from the Bosphorus to visit Crimea and see the battlefields. They returned to England on the 6th of July 1856. Later, she married the Rev. C. H. H. Wright, a distinguished Hebrew and Oriental scholar. His work as a chaplain took them to Dresden, Boulogne-sur-Mer, and Belfast. They raised five sons, one of whom became a prominent immunologist – Sir Almroth Edward Wright.

Lady Alicia Blackwood’s Book

Lady Blackwood's drawing of the hospital at Scudari.
Lady Blackwood’s drawing of the hospital at Scudari.

Lady Alicia Blackwood also wrote a book, available online, about her experience from the Crimean War: A Narrative of Personal Experiences and Impressions During a Residence on the Bosphorus Throughout the Crimean War.

Throughout the book, she also writes about Emma and Ebba.

“At that time two young Swedish ladies – Emma and Ebba Almroth – were staying with us, who, equally eager to be useful, at once expressed their wish to accompany us.”

“Ebba Almroth had for some time studied the Turkish language, with the Armenian characters, which are easier than the Arabic; this frequently enabled her to speak with some of our native neighbors. She and her sister Emma, therefore, visited the Turkish school, kept by an old Imam in part of the mosque close to us.”

“Thus ended our Eastern sojourn; and before closing this narrative, it remains to state that our two Swedish friends, Emma and Ebba Almroth, so frequently mentioned, were both after our return to England happily married to clergymen.

Emma Moved to India

Emma married The Rev. Henry Bagnell, who had been the chaplain at Scutari during the time of the cholera epidemic. He later obtained an appointment as the Chaplain of Nagar in India. Emma is mentioned in the Mission Field, 1883:

”The Chaplain of Nagar, Mr. Bagnell, aided most zealously by his wife, who set herself to learn Mahratti for the express purpose of being useful for Mission work, was very anxious to evangelize the natives.”

Emma and her husband had one son and three daughters.

A Final Note on Ebba

In 1884, Ebba also became acquainted with  Princess Eugénie of Sweden. In 1889, she wrote an obituary about the princess which was published in Sunday at Homes. The following screenshot is taken from

Obituary written by Ebba Almroth on the death of the Swedish princess, Eugénie, published in Sunday at Homes, September 1889.
Obituary written by Ebba Almroth on the death of the Swedish princess, Eugénie, published in Sunday at Homes, September 1889.


Did Augusta also know the ”old schoolfellow” Adèle Marina Rudenschöld? I bet she did!

Lotten’s Letter: Mourning a Grandmother

Lotten Westman’s letter to Augusta, Stockholm, 25? March 1846 (Wednesday)

My own beloved Augusta!

If I did not know you and that you would forgive me, I would hardly dare to write to you after such a long silence. Maybe I thought it was longer than you found it to be because I’ve been thinking about writing to you all the time and longing for an opportunity to do so. The reason why I did not write is that my grandmother died and that I have to be there almost every day and keep my aunt company. It happened so suddenly. She was in good health and lively when she had a stroke, but she passed away within a day. We had for a long time been prepared for this because all winter, she had not been very energetic but now she was better than she had ever been. Without her, there is such emptiness in the family. She was always sweet and friendly when one visited her.

If you have ever experienced a death in the family, you know how much there is to do. I cannot help very much, but I can at least keep my aunt company and I have honestly done that. You know how much I like my home, so imagine how boring it has been during the last 3 weeks when I hardly could go home a single day. Now you know the reason why I did not write to you, my own Augusta. That I wish I could have, that you know, and I sincerely wish that you must have longed for a letter from me.

Sleigh Ride, Einar Torsslow.
Sleigh Ride by Einar Torsslow.

It is good that I have had so much fun earlier this winter because now, it is the end of it. The last amusement I had was a sleigh ride to Haga that Mrs. Dimander organized; very charming. It was awfully fun. I rode with Carl Hedin, … , Emma Hedin was also with us and we drove home in the most splendid moonlight – it beautifully lit up the white snow. Too bad we rode in a covered sleigh. The road conditions were perfect for the sleighs and it was not cold. Imagine how many layers of clothing I was wearing: at least 15 shawls, cardigan, and anything one could think of….”

Lotten’s paternal grandmother, Carolina Westman (born Palmgren), must have been a matriarch in the family. Her husband had died before Lotten was born and she lived with her youngest, unmarried daughter, Emilie Aurora. Through Lotten’s letters, one gets the feeling that Lotten was closer to her father’s family (Westman) than her mother’s (Plagemann).

Carolina Westman hosted great parties for the extended family. Before Christmas in 1845, Lotten wrote to Augusta about one of those parties.

”You asked me if I heard something about my relative Hedin and you apologize for liking him only because of the polka [dance]. You do not have to apologize for that, because I also like him just for the same reason. If I am lucky, I’ll meet him on the second day after Christmas when my grandmother always hosts a dance.”

This is the house where Lotten's grandmother lived in 1835,
This is the house where Lotten’s grandmother lived in 1835. 

So where did Carolina Westman live? I checked the census records for 1835 and 1845. In 1835, her address was Drottninggatan 59. Since 1798, this has also been the address of a pharmacy, Apoteket Ugglan. The pharmacy is famous for two reasons:

  1. No other pharmacy in Sweden has been in operation at the same address for as long as this pharmacy (220 years). Parts of the interior and the paintings in the ceiling are still from the late 1800s.
  2. One of Sweden’s most famous chemists, Carl Gustaf Mosander,  started his career at age 15 when he became an apprentice at the pharmacy. Like Lotten’s paternal grandfather, the pharmacist Carl Johan Fredrik Plagemann,    Carl Gustaf Mosander also studied under professor Jacob Berzelius. When Berzelius retired, Mosander got his position.

It is fascinating to think that Carolina Westman must have lived above the pharmacy.

Lotten's grandmother's house in 1845.
This is where Lotten’s grandmother lived in 1845 – the corner of Drottninggatan and Gamla Brogatan.

In 1845, Carolina Westman had moved with her daughter, Lotten’s aunt, across the street and a block north to Drottninggatan 72. The house is long gone. From the early 1900s, the block housed one of the first department stores in Stockholm – PUB. It is now a hotel – Haymarket by Scandic.

After reading about Lotten’s grandmother and finding out where she lived, I got curious. I wonder if Augusta ever visited Lotten’s grandmother?


Note: Carl Theodor and Emma Hedin were Lotten’s 3rd-degree cousins. Another brother, Ludwig, was the father of the famous explorer, Sven Hedin.