My words, thoughts and photos from a Swedish perspective

The Chinese Pavilion

I have kept these images in store for over a month. This explains how we suddenly got summer in October. There is nothing wrong with the four seasons – I have simply not had time to write this post before. Anyhow, instead of showing the traditional front view of the pavilion, I prefer to begin the post with a view from another angle hopyfully giving you an impression of entering something special and a lost world that is still available for us to enjoy.

Ok, now when I have set the mood, let’s go back to 1753. King Adolf Fredrik has decided to give his queen Lovisa Ulrika a surprise on her birthday – a Chinese pavilion. The house was built in Stockholm and secretly shipped in sections on barges to Drottningholm where the construction work took place at nighttime.

The 18th century’s establishment of East Asiatic shipping and trading companies and their transocean shipping launched a keen interest in Chinese and Japanese culture and handicraft. Chinoiseries soon became a fashion all over Europe and the queen really appreciated the birthday present.

This first Chinese Pavilion was built of wood andit began to rot after a couple of years. The foundation to a new brick pavilion was laid in 1763. Architect was Carl Fredrik Adelcrantz, but Jean Eric Rehn was responsible for the interior.

Foundations to two small pavilions (built to last) were laid in 1754. One was “The Confidence” (picture) equipped with “a magic table and magic dumb waiters” which were laid in the basement and sent upstairs with the help of a refined machinery. This meant that the royal family could dine “en confidence” with an absolute minimum of servants present – the table and dishes came through the floor and disappeared the same way when not needed.

The other pavilion was the king’s pavilion. His lathe was brought to that pavilion from Drottningholm; the king had a reputation for being very keen on turning a lathe but there are no records showing that this was true, nor has any work that could verify this survived. There are, however, accounts preserved showing that the queen had ordered material to be used for this purpose. Turning a lathe was a popular pastime among members of the nobility and in the courts of Europe and I suppose it did many of them good.

The disadvantage with these pavilions was that they made the Chinese Pavilion look rather modest and I think that the rottening of it came as a gift from above. The new Chinese Pavilion was completed in 1769. Adolf Fredrik and Lovisa Ulrika used the Chinese Pavilion as their privage refuge from the strict and formal life at the court. They had paid for it out of their own pockets and it was therefore their private property. An invitation to the Chinese Pavilion was the ultimate evidence of royal grace back then. Times would, however, change soon.

Lovisa Ulrika’s different building projects put her in debt and in 1777 her son Gustav III had the state pay all his mother’s debts provided she would give up her right to use Drottningholm. It didn’t take long before life in the Chinese Pavilion was part of the king’s official life and the court had to follow the king on his day trips to it. Besides, he also had the bad habit to change his mind a couple of times which annoyed members of the court because the dresscode at Drottningholm was different from the dresscode at the Chinese Pavilion.

The decline of Drottningholm that followed Gustav III’s death did not seem to have affected the Chinese Pavilion to the same extent, possibly because it soon became a popular place to go to, possibly because it was small and therefore easy to keep in shape. A man was employed and given accomodation in one of the adjacent pavilions already in the 1830’s. His job was to guide visitors in the pavilion dressed like a Chinese. It is still a popular place to go to and there is a café on the grounds where one can get something to eat while one enjoys the atmosphere.

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2 responses

  1. Very interesting post! Outstanding!

    11/10/2011 at 07:39

  2. Staffan H

    Montucky: Sincere thanks. 🙂

    11/10/2011 at 15:48

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