The Millennium in Sweden also saw the start of several publications and of an exhibition on the Royal architect, Nicodemus Tessin the Younger (1654-1728). To celebrate its tercentenary, the Bank of Sweden generously sponsored edited facsimiles of Tessin’s publications and notebooks. Three generations of the Tessin family had a lasting impact on the architecture of Sweden and Scandinavia, for it was they who introduced the classical style to a country that was still very rural and undeveloped. Nicodemus Tessin the Younger was undoubtedly the most famous, and in the present book his work is examined on the basis of new research and from varied viewpoints. The existing monograph on Tessin by Ragnar Josephson was published already in 1930-31 and thus in need of updating.
Tessin’s role as architect to the royal court is analyzed in he first chapter by Göran Lindahl. He makes the interesting observation that Tessin the Younger, following Bernini’s example, understood that his work as architect to the Swedish king could advance his own social position. The queen mother Hedvig Eleonora, her son the future king Karl XI and his wife Ulrika Eleonora, were all powerful figures who held Tessin in high esteem and were eager to engage him for their respective courts.
The article by Mårten Snickare and Marin Olin touches on the subject of Tessin as a collector of books, engravings and drawings, and as the organizer of court ceremonies. His was one of the largest graphic collections in Europe and contained more than a thousand drawings and engravings of royal ceremonies and festivities. Tessin actually produced a catalogue of his collection of books, engravings and drawings on architecture, gardening, hydraulics, painting, sculpture etc., which he published in 1712. The catalogue of his books opens with lists of the architectural treatises he owned by Vitruvius, Alberti, Serlio, Palladio, Vignola etc. Also very interesting is his collection of engravings and drawings of houses and palaces belonging to architects and artists, including Rubens’s house in Antwerp, Bernini’s palace in Rome, and Giulio Romano’s in Mantua.
Börje Magnusson discusses in his very interesting article the importance of Tessin’s journeys in Europe. The ‘great works of Rome’ were of the ‘greatest service’ to his country, as Tessin wrote. Rome was indeed the most important destination of his first study trip from 1673 to 1677. He accompanied the Marquis del Monte, the envoy of Queen Christina in Stockholm, on the journey through Denmark, Germany and Austria. In Rome he was received by his half-brother, the architect Abraham Wijnants. Above all, Tessin wished to discover the work of Bernini. A treatise by Carlo Fontana was copied in his studio and appeared very useful for building practices. Drawings based on studies in situ were produced of the Chapel of the Ecstasy of Saint Teresa (S. Maria della Vittoria) and of the cupola of the church of S. Carlo Borromeo. A number of drawings were sent home and, perhaps due to this fact, he was appointed in March 1676 as Royal Architect, while he was still in Rome. One year later, he left the eternal city and continued his journey to Florence, Bologna, Venice and the Po valley. Only six months after his return to Sweden, he travelled to France to ‘apply himself to landscape gardening’.
Tessin’s third and last journey occurred in 1687-88. Now, he travelled as a well-established Royal Architect. This time he could afford to buy engravings and books, and to commission drawings. The main information from this journey is found in two notebooks and in an extensive correspondence. Not only information about building practice, but also about the incumbents of important offices, incomes, expenditure and luxury goods. Tessin paid particular attention to the interior of palaces, to the typical furniture for various seasons, the use of ‘guarderobes’ and the existence of bedchambers and beds of state. In June 1688 he returned to Sweden.
Johan MŒrtelius (‘Tessin’s High Aim’) believes that Tessin’s projects demonstrate his preference for height, not only illustrated by his different arrangements of columns on faades, but also in his decoration of staircases. At the royal palace of Drottningholm, begun by his father, Tessin completed the interior in the 1680s with a monumental staircase that dominates the central interior space and offers a complete view of the gardens from the upper hall. At the palace of Steninge, north of Stockholm, the massive staircase shaped even the entire interior. In the case of the Royal Palace in Stockholm, the eastern and western stairwells are designed to link three storeys and are accessible from central, horizontal and vertical positions. The flights of stairs and landings also form three units in depth. Tessin also paid great attention to the staircase in his own palace. He presented it as a sequence, from the faade without columns, through the central axis running through the summer dining room out into the garden. All the above mentioned examples of staircases and their structural details are illustrated in this article by excellent photographs by John Kimmich.
One chapter, written by the editor himself, is devoted to Tessin’s involvement in projects for three royal palaces. The author clearly explains how in late seventeenth-Europe it was no long the pope but the absolute monarchs who became the new patrons of great (royal) palaces and of the layout of capital cities. Tessin’s first commission for a royal palace came in 1693 when Christian V of Denmark sought advice about the building of a new palace on the site where the summer residence of Sophia Amalienborg had stood. Tessin’s design consisted of a palace, with two main faades, one directed to the garden, and the other to the courtyard. Again, Bernini’s model (his third scheme of 1665) for the Louvre was Tessin’s reference. But the palace was never built. From 1688, after his second journey to Italy, Tessin started to produce plans for the transformation of the old Castle of the Three Crowns in Stockholm. The architect tried to convince Carl XI to build an entirely new palace. Only after the disastrous fire of 1697 was he requested to submit his plans to Carl XII. Due to wars into which Carl XII was drawn, the Royal Palace was only completed long after Tessin’s death. Characteristic for Tessin’s architecture is the cubic form of the building, consisting of four wings of equal height, and lower projecting sections. Particularly interesting is the fact that this Palace became the nucleus of a system of sites and relates perfectly with other city buildings and with the water surfaces. Tessin’s overall plan from 1713 is very meaningful in this regard. The third and last design for a royal palace was his prestigious project for the Louvre in Paris. Tessin finished his design in the autumn of 1704, from which a large model was made by Göran Törnquist in Paris. We see again a modern architect at work. As he had done with the old castle in Stockholm, Tessin, clearly inspired by Bernini’s first sketch for the Louvre, proposed a ‘tabula rasa’ and to replace the old Square Court by a circular courtyard. Later, at the request of Louis XIV, Tessin’s wooden model was placed next to Bernini’s in the Louvre, thus acknowledging on a European level Tessin’s importance. From then on, he was considered by the most powerful monarch of the day to be equal to Bernini, or even his successor.
The next chapter, by Bo Vahlne, is devoted to interior decoration. It seems that Tessin’s unpublished treatise on Interior Decoration was intended to be finalized by his son Carl Gustaf, who was expected to add examples of contemporary interior design. The first section in his book is devoted to fixtures, the second to the rooms with collections of art, and the concluding third deals with wall-coverings and furniture. As we can read in a letter to his son, Tessin was convinced that he was the first person to devote a whole book to interior design.
Linda Hendriksson pays attention to Tessin’s little known manuscript on landscape gardening: ‘Remarques touchent les Jardins de proprété et premierement de leur Situation’. It is one of the earliest treatises on Baroque gardens. Interesting is the author’s remark that this manuscript is ‘more down-to-earth . . . and often adapted to Swedish circumstances.’ Five conditions for a good garden seemed essential to Tessin: the correct position, good soil, water, view and an appropriate location. Most of the examples he cites, such as Versailles, Meudon, Chantilly etc. had been visited by him. It is also worth mentioning that though there was a certain rivalry between him and the royal gardener Johan HŒrleman, they nevertheless collaborated on projects at Drottningholm, Rosersberg, Karlberg and Steninge, but it is unclear how the work was divided between them. Tessin created in the garden of his own palace an ideal model that was characterized by symmetry, modest dimensions, intimacy, refinement, illusionary perspectives, a grotto, orangeries with painted scenes on the walls etc. Many of these elements, though on a larger scale and with a more explicit reference to Versailles, can be found in the gardens at Drottningholm. In addition to these official projects, he was also involved in drawing up plans for private gardens at Steninge Palace, and even in France at Roissy-en-France for Comte d’Avaux, the French envoy to Sweden.
Martin Olin describes the paradoxical situation surrounding church buildings. Tessin was indeed commissioned to design protestant churches, which were inspired by the Jesuit style and examples in Counter-Reformation Rome. Nevertheless, this contextual contradiction is not so evident in style, because the Swedish church accepts images of saints and is not as austere as the Calvinist. Tessin’s task was to unite Rome’s ecclesiastical architecture with Lutheran orthodoxy, Swedish traditions and the demands of the monarchy. After completing his project for the Royal Palace, he made elaborate plans for a Royal Coronation and Funerary Church facing the centre of the Palace. He decided on a magnificent domed church, inspired by Italian Baroque architecture. But this never got beyond the theoretical state. After 1688 Tessin was involved in building a church for Carl XI’s favourite residence at Kungsör. It was a small centralised church on an octagonal plan, with transepts at the four points of the compass. The central space was domed and surmounted by a large lantern. Tessin used Bernini’s church of S. Maria Assunta at Arricia (near Rome) as model. For the newly founded naval arsenal of Karlskrona, the royal architect designed two churches. Because the Great Northern War, other projects for churches by Tessin were realized only after his death.
In a final but by no means conclusive chapter that unfortunately lacks the maps necessary to understand its content, Rebecka Millhagen described Tessin’s legacy on later Swedish architecture and for the urban development of Stockholm. Unfortunately, the author undertook only a superficial analysis of one of the most interesting aspects, namely the influence of Tessin’s somewhat abstract form of classicism (as, for instance, in the Royal Palace) on the architecture of Gunnar Asplund (especially on his City Library of 1920).
Although not all nine chapters of this book are equally relevant, this monograph on Nicodemus Tessin the Younger is most useful for those scholars and students concerned with royal architecture in Sweden during the second half of the seventeenth century, and especially with the way Baroque architecture was introduced and interpreted in that country.
Higher Institute of Architectural Sciences, Antwerp