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Versailles Through Swedish Eyes in the Eighteenth Century

Versailles vu par les Suédois au xviiie siècle
Stefano Fogelberg Rota

Résumés

Au xviiie siècle, les descriptions de Versailles émanant de Suédois sont aussi riches et variées que les relations culturelles et politiques unissant leur royaume à la France. Cet article revient sur les témoignages de trois de ces voyageurs : le scientifique Bengt Ferrner (1724-1802), l’aristocrate Gustaf Mauritz Armfelt (1757-1814) et le poète Frans Michael Franzén (1772-1847). Alors que le premier associe Paris aux opéras et spectacles de théâtre, sa réaction face à Versailles relève plutôt de l’indifférence. La relation avec la capitale est également fondamentale pour apprécier le journal du baron Gustaf Mauritz Armfelt, qui accompagne le roi Gustave III en 1784. Sa position de favori lui permet d’accéder à des cercles sociaux et culturels dont Ferrner était exclu. Armfelt décrit ainsi avec enthousiasme la vie de cour et fournit un rapport détaillé des cérémonies qui la ponctuent. Les deux villes sont donc présentées soit en opposition, comme chez Ferrner, soit se renforçant mutuellement, comme chez Armfelt. Enfin, le poète Frans Michael Franzén décrit Versailles dans son état postrévolutionnaire, au début de l’année 1795. Sensible aux idées révolutionnaires, il projette son aversion de l’absolutisme sur le château de Versailles qui, privé de la cour, avait perdu son rôle central. Bien qu’il soit difficile de dégager des tendances générales à partir de ces trois témoignages, nous pouvons ainsi remarquer une réprobation croissante vis-à-vis du cérémonial et de la glorification de la monarchie absolue, alors incarnée par Versailles.

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Introduction

1In this article I will examine the writings of three Swedish travellers to France in the eighteenth century and their reactions to Versailles, both the palace and its domain, as well as the court of the French king. The three Swedes are scientist Bengt Ferrner (1724–1802), nobleman Gustaf Mauritz Armfelt (1757–1814) and poet Frans Michael Franzén (1772–1847), who travelled to France in 1760, 1784 and 1795, respectively. One of the main reasons for my choice of travellers is the temporal distribution of their journeys over different decades, as I set out to show a change in Swedish perceptions of Versailles both as a political and cultural model over time. Another important motive is the different professions, social status and interests of the three Swedish travellers.

  • 1 On the cultural, political and social relations between Sweden and France in the eighteenth century (...)
  • 2 Regarding the French influence on the so-called hattarna, see Wolff 2005, pp. 56–61. Here, Wolff di (...)

2Ferrner was an astronomer at Uppsala University and an amateur of music ; Armfelt – who travelled with Gustav III of Sweden – was both the Swedish king’s favourite and his maître de plaisirs ; Franzén, finally, was a young poet from a bourgeois family. Even these first brief descriptions, which will be fleshed out in the following pages, illustrate how different these three personalities were. However, Ferrner, Armfelt and Franzén had some common interests, such as theatre and music. Still, the most important point of contact between them is the proximity that characterized Swedish-French cultural and social relations throughout the eighteenth century. These were just as intertwined as the political developments in the two countries.1 France was a key ally to one of the political parties that struggled for power during the so-called Age of Liberty (Frihetstiden, 1719–72) – the aristocratic Hattpartiet (the party of the hats) – and later to Gustav III during his reign (1771–92), and thus exerted an important influence on Swedish political and cultural life over the entire century.2

3Moreover, we should also consider the variation in personalities, aims and ambitions of these travellers – not to mention the diversity in regard to historical periods – in order to put the results of this inquiry in an appropriate perspective. This cannot be, naturally, the general Swedish view of Versailles in the eighteenth century, but, rather, that of a few representative examples of different understandings of the cultural, political and social model that the palace and its domain, as well as the court of the French king, represented for Sweden. This last caveat before I set out to analyse the writings of the three above-mentioned Swedes is intended to acknowledge the impossibility of accounting for a view of Versailles that represents the whole Swedish realm, which at that time also included Finland, during such an eventful century ; a span of a hundred years that, broadly speaking, not only brought about the end of the Ancien Régime but also questioned the conception of art as a mirror to nature inherited from antiquity.

Bengt Ferrner (1760)

  • 3 Before arriving in France Ferrner and his pupil had covered Denmark, Holland, England and Scotland. (...)
  • 4 The bibliography in regard to the Grand Tour is prolific and I will therefore only refer to two maj (...)
  • 5 Ferrner 1956.

4The first description of Versailles I will consider is that of astronomer Bengt Ferrner, who travelled to France in the autumn and winter of 1760 as part of his five-year-long journey through Europe as tutor for the young nobleman Jean Lefebure (1708–1767), son of a Huguenot ironmaster.3 Ferrner’s and Lefebure’s journey had mainly educational motives. As other grand tourists of the time, both tutor and pupil sought to cultivate the artistic taste and social distinction that could be acquired from dealings with the upper classes of foreign countries.4 Other purposes for the pair’s travels were matters of manufacture, entrepreneurship and science. Their journey included frequent visits to industrial enterprises all over Europe in order to establish international business connections, as well as numerous encounters with learned personalities pertaining to the so-called Republic of Letters. Tellingly, Sten G. Lindberg, who edited Ferrner’s travel diary, describes him in the title of the published version as ‘astronomer’, ‘industry spy’ and ‘theatre habitué’.5

  • 6 Ferrner 1956, p. 345.
  • 7 For an account of Swedish politics in the Age of Liberty see Venturi 1979, Roberts 1986 and Nordin  (...)

5Given these premises, it is therefore not too surprising that Ferrner’s reaction to Versailles might be described as one of disinterest. Notably, he and his pupil – who is mostly absent from Ferrner’s descriptions of events and places – waited almost two months after their arrival in Paris before visiting the residence of the French king. On the other hand, only a few hours after they arrived in Paris on 9 October 1760, they were already seated at the Opéra Comique.6 Ferrner’s account of their first days in Paris abound with similar entries. The two Swedes attended no less than seven performances in the first ten days of their stay. The list of the operas, plays and concerts they attended is very long, and this is also the case regarding Ferrner’s meetings with learned personalities, such as Jean d’Alembert and the astronomer Joseph-Jérôme Lefrançois de Lalande. The two Swedes were also to be seen at several lectures in a variety of venues. Ferrner appears, in the pages written from Paris, as an enlightened traveller and an exemplary representative of the progressive voices of the Age of Liberty. This period in Swedish history started in 1719 with a new constitution that ratified the end of absolutism, as a consequence of Charles XII’s defeat in the Great Northern War, and lasted until 1772 when Gustav III re-established dominant monarchical power through a coup d’état. The Age of Liberty is both a politically unstable period in Swedish history, as well as a time of political and social reforms, such as the law on the freedom of the press (Tryckfrihetsförordning) from 1766.7

  • 8 Ferrner’s diary from Italy is only partially preserved. In fact, only his stays in the Republic of (...)
  • 9 Berglund 2013.
  • 10Kl. 5 gingo vi in i Palais de Tuilleries [sic], hvarest en andelig musique, Concert spirituel, upf (...)

6Noteworthy in Ferrner’s diary from England, France and Italy are his musical evaluations, involving frequent comparisons with previously attended performances.8 Musicologist Lars Berglund has argued that Ferrner’s constant comparisons can be seen as part of an educational program aiming at shaping a specific musical taste which favoured the internationally renowned Italian music over, for instance, French music.9 This stance is clear in the following quote dated 1 November : ‘At 5 o’clock we entered the Palais de Tuilleries [sic] where sacred music, Concert spirituel, was played. An air in the Italian style with French words and a violin solo were there my only pleasure. The rest was in the dry and monotonous French taste’.10

7Given Ferrner’s loquacity on musical matters and his frequent references to theatre performances, his description of Versailles is striking in its brevity :

  • 11 ‘Dec. d. 4. Reste jag kl. 8 om morgon i följe med en strasburgare vid namn Boch ut till Versailles. (...)

December 4. I set out [from Paris] at 8 o’clock in the morning to Versailles with a man from Strasbourg by the name of Boch. We arrived there by the time the King and the Dauphin were attending mass, to which we also headed. The King went shortly thereafter hunting. The Dauphin and the Duke of Berry went along to entertain themselves. We then saw the halls of the Castle among which the Grand Gallery is the most illustrious. The site is not particularly beautiful, but the Gardens are superb. In the Menagerie there are the rarest animals, like ostrich, pelican, zebra, Icelandic sheep and buffalos from Africa that are not that big. Versailles is a boring retreat, everything I saw here is dead and sad. Monsieur Roussiere, an acquaintance of Monsieur Boch, invited us to dine with him. We ate a very modest supper at the Trois Empereurs. We then left for Paris where we arrived at 6.30 pm.11

  • 12 Like many of his contemporaries, Ferrner probably used a guidebook to Versailles such as Jean-Aimar (...)
  • 13 The Trois Empereurs was located at the ‘Petite Place’, between the present-day streets of Sainte-An (...)

8Ferrner’s short one-day visit to Versailles is summarized by expressions such as ‘boring’, ‘dead’ and ‘sad’, bearing witness to an indifferent – if not outright negative – impression of the site. Ferrner’s harsh judgement is only partly mitigated by his praise of the gardens and the menagerie. The lack of a more detailed description of the palace matches Ferrner’s lack of concern for architecture, which he seldom discusses even elsewhere in his diary. It is tempting to interpret his few hours in Versailles – roughly, between 10 am and 6.30 pm, probably even less time than the average tourist would spend there today – as a sign of both disinterest and the fact that he was excluded from the cultural and social life of the court. In fact, Ferrner refers to a highly conventional, touristic, visit of Versailles, one in which only the most important sites are seen : the Grande Galerie or Galerie des Glaces, the gardens and, of course, the most important ‘monument’ of all : King Louis XV and his son, the Dauphin, Louis de France (1729–1765).12 Ferrner’s exclusion from a more in-depth experience of Versailles is personified by his guide : the unidentified ‘Monsieur Boch’, who hardly plays the role of a passe-partout at court. Like an ordinary tourist, Ferrner has to content himself with observing the king from a distance and has to make do with a mediocre supper at the Trois Empereurs.13

9The sharp contrast in Ferrner’s experiences of Paris and Versailles needs to be discussed further. While the reasons for his appreciation of Paris are clear – its fervent intellectual and musical life – the reasons for his dislike of Versailles are more difficult to understand. As suggested above, his exclusion from the life of the court might be one of the causes of his sense of ennui. Another possible and related explanation might be the absolutist form of government Versailles represented which was unappealing to Ferrner. This at least is the impression given by two specific circumstances surrounding his stay in France.

  • 14 Ferrner 1956, p. 349.
  • 15 Lundström 1914, p. 31. On Celsius and his journey to Rome in 1734 see Fogelberg Rota 2013.

10The first regards his attendance at the opening of the parliament at the Palais de Justice, which is described as ‘ridicula’.14 Ferrner – who this time expresses his appreciation of the music played – considers particularly ridiculous the ceremonial custom in which the presidents approach the altar, kneeling several times. Ferrner’s irritation with similar ceremonies makes him less likely to appreciate the complex etiquette of Versailles. Revealingly, a similar tone is to be found in a letter written from Rome by another Swedish travelling astronomer, the more famous Anders Celsius (1701–1744). In his letter addressed in May 1734 to his cousin, the professor of theology at Uppsala University Magnus Beronius (1692–1775), Celsius criticizes the ceremonies of Holy Week, which he calls ‘sottiser’ [silliness].15 Although the experiences of Ferrner in Paris and Celsius in Rome are hardly comparable I think it might be reasonable to suggest a similar approach in both travellers. Ferrner’s and Celsius’s irritation testifies to a certain annoyance with ceremonies of all sorts common to the Swedish scientific milieu in the middle of the century. This standpoint might also betray a critique of an absolutist form of ruling.

  • 16 Berglund 2013, p. 109.

11The second circumstance relates to the Ferrner’s siding with the supporters of the Italian opera buffa in the so-called Querelle des Bouffons (1752–54). As Berglund has noted, Ferrner’s preference for Italian music and the cosmopolitanism it represented – of which we saw an example above – might contain a political undertone. To take sides in this debate for the tragédie lyrique of the Royal Opera in Paris could be interpreted as an endorsement of the Ancien Régime. On the other hand, the supporters of the Italian opera buffa professed a cosmopolitan and aristocratic taste which could be seen as a critique of absolutism.16

  • 17 Lindberg 1956, pp. 635–44.
  • 18 Berglund 2013, p. 118.
  • 19 Orrje 2015, p. 94. The proximity of patriotic and cosmopolitan stances in Swedish eighteenth-centur (...)

12Given this assumption it is something of a paradox that Ferrner, a few years after his return to Sweden, became the tutor of the hereditary prince Gustav and was later raised to the nobility in 1766. Gustav also, immediately upon his elevation to the throne in 1771, gave a yearly pension to his former teacher.17 Ferrner’s Grand Tour was crucial for his advancement and it is likely that his accounts of the music scene in France and Italy inspired the young prince in his own travels.18 The complexity with regard to Ferrner’s political orientation is compounded by the patriotic standpoints he also took, alongside his above-mentioned cosmopolitanism. At first glance, these contradictory stances appear particularly evident in Ferrner’s contacts with the English scientific community. In an article on the Swedish astronomer’s stay in London, science historian Jacob Orrje discusses how he acted both as a ‘cosmopolitan member of a European Republic of Letters’ as well as ‘a loyal ambassador of Swedish science’.19 Versailles’s lack of appeal to Ferrner can, finally, also be related to his membership of the Swedish Royal Academy of Science and its Newtonian and utilitarian approach.

Gustaf Mauritz Armfelt (1784)

  • 20 Stavenow 1920, pp. 203–214.
  • 21 On Gustav III’s first visit to Versailles, see Bastien 2017, p. 280.

13A great interest in music and theatre also stands out in the travel diary of nobleman Gustaf Mauritz Armfelt, who came to Versailles as part of Gustav III’s retinue in the summer of 1784.20 This was the Swedish king’s second journey to Versailles, after his visit to the court of Louis XV as a young prince in 1771.21 Gustav III travelled incognito as the Count of Haga. Two important premises should be taken into account when considering Armfelt’s impressions of Versailles : first of all, the fact that he travelled with the King and therefore had access to milieus and experiences from which other travellers were excluded ; and secondly, that, just as in Ferrner’s case, Armfelt’s journey was part of a longer tour of Europe. In fact, Gustav’s travels in Italy and France between 1783 and 1784 are regarded as the King’s own Grand Tour.

14A close reading of Armfelt’s diary demonstrates, in his case, as well, the importance of the relation – and at times tension – between the experience of Paris and that of Versailles. A correct, although slightly anachronistic, aspect of the relation between the two cities as described in Armfelt’s account of his travels is that the King and his favourite were commuting between them during their seven-week stay. The following quote, dated 12 June 1784, will state the case :

  • 22Den 12 juni var jag hemma hela förmiddagen, efter middagen for jag ut på visiter och la Comedie it (...)

On 12 June I was at home the whole morning. In the afternoon I went out on visits and to the Comédie-Italienne where they gave Isabelle and Fernande, a bad play. We had previously been at the Comédie-Française so the play had already started [when we first arrived there], but the audience, which applauded unnaturally, demanded that the play should begin anew, something which happened. Thence we travelled to Versailles for supper at the Count of Vergennes, which was dull. Then we went to the Princess Lamballe. Everyone was still there, as well as Monsieur and the Count of Artois.22

  • 23 The full title of this opera is Isabelle et Fernand, ou l’Alcalde de Zalamea; comédie en trois Acte (...)

15Apart from the negative judgement of the play at the Comédie-Italienne (a French adaptation of Calderón’s El Alcalde de Zalamea) – and the fact that they had already seen another play the same day at the Comédie-Française – this passage is important because it reveals that the Swedes returned to Versailles the same evening for supper.23 Armfelt and King Gustav had dinner with the comte de Vergennes, Charles Gravier (1719–1787), secretary of foreign affairs and previously French ambassador in Stockholm in the 1770s. After this feast Gustav and Armfelt continued to the Princess de Lamballe, Marie-Thérèse-Louise de Savoie-Carignan (1749–1792), surintendante de la maison to Queen Marie-Antoinette, where they met the French king’s two brothers, namely Monsieur, Louis-Stanislas-Xavier (subsequently Louis XVIII, 1755–1824), and the comte d’Artois, Charles-Philippe, (subsequently Charles X, 1757–1836).

  • 24 For an overview of the life at court in Versailles see Mathieu da Vinha’s numerous works, such as D (...)
  • 25 Armfelt 1997.

16Frequent hops between Paris and Versailles were of course common at the time.24 In fact, a whole army of administrators used to commute every day to and from Versailles. However, the frequency with which Armfelt and the King moved between the two cities is extraordinary. On no less than seven occasions during the first ten days of their stay, Armfelt and Gustav travelled in the same evening between the two cities.25 One of these occasions was on 17 June :

  • 26Den 17 juni var jag hela förmiddagen ute för att göra amplettes och se gamla connoisancer, eftermi (...)

On 17 June I went out all morning in order to do some emplettes [shopping]. In the afternoon I went together with the king to visit la Marechalle Duras and therefrom to the opera les Danaïdes. [After the opera] we travelled therefrom to Versailles where we ate supper with the royal family in [their] cabinets. Both kings sat next to each other and I sat close to Madame whom I found most aimable. After supper we played at the lottery. The count of Haga [Gustav III], Count Taube and myself played together with the queen and lost our money. I partook at the coucher of the king of France.26

  • 27 The previous day – 16 June – Armfelt and King Gustav attended a concert in the same private chamber (...)

17This is yet another telling example of Armfelt’s vivid descriptions of the life of the court in his diary, offering a detailed account of the ceremonies and the social life that surrounded it. After having attended the performance of Antonio Salieri’s Les Danaïdes at the Opéra in Paris, Gustav and Armfelt returned to Versailles for supper with the whole royal family in their private chambers. Armfelt conversed pleasantly with queen Marie-Antoinette and assisted at the King’s coucher, together with his lever, one of the most important ceremonies of the French court. This episode gives us an idea of the free access to all court events Armfelt enjoyed as Gustav’s favourite, as well as of the lively atmosphere they experienced in the circle of Queen Marie Antoinette.27 With its frequent card games and concerts, the French court must have been anything but boring. Nonetheless, the Swedish king and his favourite frequently travelled back and forth between Versailles and Paris in order to participate in an astonishing number of events.

18Armfelt’s fascination for performances acquired a professional character shortly before the journey to Italy and France, when Gustav III – known in Sweden as the ‘theatre king’ – appointed him director of the court theatre, with the title of maître de plaisirs du roi. As in Ferrner’s case, Armfelt’s references reflect the performative and social character of these events as much as their musical qualities. This can be seen in the following quote from 8 June in which Armfelt recounts the performance of Beaumarchais’s Mariage de Figaro, which had premiered in April of the same year :

  • 28Vi foro sedermera au francois där de gåvo le mariage de Figareau. Piecen var redan börjad, mens om (...)

We went afterwards to the Comédie-Française where they played Le Mariage de Figaro. The opera had already begun but as the king entered [in the theatre] there was a dreadful applause. He bowed humbly to the audience and the applause was doubled. People even started to scream qu’on recommence de nouveau. The play begun anew and when the Marechal of Biron and le Baron [of] Breteuil came into the box I went over to the one pertaining to les Premiers Gentilshommes de la Chambre, where I stayed until the king went back to Versailles.28

19It is perhaps no wonder that the two Swedes travelled back and forth between Versailles and Paris : they did not need to be on time when going to the opera!

20In order to better understand the extraordinary character of these accounts I will compare Armfelt’s diary with another two Swedish reactions to Versailles and the court of the French king in which the theme of inclusion in / exclusion from courtly life and its practices is central. The first one is found in the travel diary of the young officer Mikael Hisinger (1758–1829) who visited Versailles only a few months after Armfelt in 1784. The second one stems from diplomat Erik Bergstedt (1760–1836), stationed at the Swedish embassy in Paris between 1791 and 1793.

  • 29 Hisinger 2015.
  • 3029 September. We went to Versailles and the Petit Trianon that we were authorised to visit thanks (...)

21Although Hisinger shared the same origins as Armfelt, hailing from the Finnish provinces of the Swedish realm, and his father, Johan Hisinger, had been made a noble in 1770, he did not have the same access to the court as his countryman. A first explanation lies in Armfelt’s closeness to Gustav III. On the other hand, it should also be noted that Hisinger’s interest in social events seems limited ; the major features of his travel diary are descriptions of fortifications and defensive architecture in general, as well as gardens.29 The Swedish officer seems more eager to gain access to buildings than to high-ranking personalities. On 29 September, during his one-day stay in Versailles, Hisinger visited the Petit Trianon thanks to the intervention of the influential Swedish ambassador Erik Magnus Staël von Holstein (1749–1802).30 Apart from this privilege, his account of the visit to the palace of Versailles does not differ particularly from Ferrner’s. In fact, most of Hisinger’s considerations regard the Grande Galerie and the works of Charles Le Brun (1619–1690) there :

  • 31Sedan foro vi opp till Versailles, besågo de Kongliga rummen och kungens privata, emedan han var å (...)

Thereafter we went to Versailles, saw the Royal apartments and the private apartment of the king, whilst he was hunting. They are not particularly beautiful or remarkable. The Grande Galerie has a beautiful view, the Ceiling is painted by Le Brun and represents the history of Louis XIV. In the great Parade halls there are everywhere paintings by Le Brun.31

22Tellingly, Hisinger’s visit to Versailles is marked by the absence of the King and therefore also by the lack of references to courtly occasions. Armfelt’s almost contemporary experience of the court of France therefore appears fundamentally different, because of his access to all kinds of court events thanks to his position as Gustav III’s favourite.

  • 32 Thomasson 2013, p. 144.
  • 33 Bergstedt to Rosenstein, 9 April 1792. Uppsala, Uppsala University Library (UUL), Paris, F 651 a. T (...)

23Erik Bergstedt’s description of the French court in the spring of 1792 can also be read as an indirect testimony to the exceptional status of Armfelt’s experience of Versailles ten years earlier. Bergstedt had been promoted to chargé d’affaires at the end of 1791 as a consequence of the above-mentioned ambassador Staël von Holstein having been called back to Sweden, under suspicion of revolutionary sympathies.32 Naturally, the French Revolution had, as I will discuss further, a great influence on Swedish politics. The murder of Gustav III at the Opera in Stockholm in March 1792 can be considered as one of the many consequences of the turmoil in France and pre-dated the execution of Louis XVI in January 1793. In a letter to Nils Rosén von Rosenstein (1752–1824), son of the more renowned physician of the same name, written after he had been informed of the shooting of the King but before news of Gustav III’s death had arrived, Bergstedt describes his meeting with the French king, who was riding on his horse in the Tuileries garden.33 During this short conversation Louis XVI expressed his great sorrow at the misfortune of Gustav III. Bergstedt’s detailed description of this encounter reveals his satisfaction at being consulted by the French king. This lower-ranking diplomat’s experience of enjoying a more distinguished position at court thanks to the political development in Sweden is reflected in the following passage from the same letter :

  • 34På Couren frågade Konungen efter mig. Jag hade assisterat vid förbönen i Capellet för Kgn [Konunge (...)

At the court the King asked for me. I had attended prayers for the [Swedish] King in the chapel and had thus the misfortune of being late. But the Queen spoke at length with me at her Court and in the evening at her Games. This exceptional distinction that has been bestowed upon me has directed much attention towards my persona and given me a kind of standing that much increases the pleasure of my presence here. I am here in the happiest conditions I could wish for. Even if I was Swedish Envoy I could not be better treated.34

  • 35 Thomasson 2013, p. 143.

24Because of the dramatic events in Stockholm, Bergstedt has now acquired exceptional access to the French royal family. Louis XVI himself asks for the Swedish chargé d’affaires, something which draws attention to his person in front of the other courtiers. Bergstedt’s delight at his newly won position at court makes him forget the particularly tragic situation that has caused his advancement. Bergstedt, who was the son of a country priest, had on several occasions expressed his doubts about Gustav III’s autocratic tendencies and showed a moderate appreciation for the ideas of the Revolution.35 Not belonging to nobility, he was precluded from obtaining the position of envoy. Given these premises, it might be surprising to read how much his advancement at court pleased him. However, Bergstedt’s reaction is, rather, a testimony to the persistence of the values that characterized court society even during the end of the Ancien Régime. The undisputed centre of this system, of which Versailles was the strongest symbol, was the King. Proximity to the monarch implied a more distinguished position, and that is, in the end, the principal explanation for Armfelt’s extraordinary experience of Versailles. In the following pages we will see how the absence of the King and his court ultimately resulted in a loss of prestige for Versailles and its domain.

Frans Michael Franzén (1795)

  • 36 Lundström 1964–66, pp. 425–37.

25A political earthquake had thus occurred – both in France and in Sweden – between Armfelt’s visit to Versailles and that of the young poet Frans Michael Franzén at the end of 1795. As mentioned previously, in both countries the eighteenth century ended with the death of the king. Although the assassination of Gustav III had a fundamentally different political outcome than the execution of Louis XVI, the two events generated new political scenarios in the respective nations. The murder of the Swedish king was the result of an aristocratic conspiracy, sparked by his own ‘Union and Security’ law of 1789, with which he strengthened his grip on power by strongly reducing the influence of the nobles. The political context for Franzén’s visit to Versailles is equally, or even more, conditioned by the French Revolution, of which he was a supporter. It should be noted that the young poet is the only one among the three Swedes on whom I focus in this article who was not a nobleman at the time of his stay in France, nor would he become one afterwards. Franzén came from a bourgeois family from Uleåborg in northern Finland and was later appointed bishop of Härnösand in the north of Sweden.36

  • 37 Franzén 1977, pp. 9–14.

26Like Ferrner before him, Franzén travelled as a tutor to the son of a rich merchant : Carl Fredrik Bremer (1770–1830). The two Swedes set out on their journey through Europe in May 1795 from Åbo (Turku in Finnish) – where Franzén worked as a university librarian – and returned to the Swedish realm at the end of 1796. In the introduction to his edition of Franzén’s diary, Anders Hernmarck notes that while the young poet travelled in order to inform himself on European humanist culture, his pupil also aimed at establishing business contacts abroad. Hernmarck also notes that the travel diary might have been intended for publication in the local paper Åbo Tidningar, with which Franzén had already collaborated.37

27Two elements stand out in Franzén’s descriptions, namely his great expectations for experiencing post-revolutionary France and his interest in the theatre. The hope and enthusiasm instilled in Franzén by the French Revolution is palpable in the following lines, in which he praises the victory of freedom against absolutism by first describing the Louvre as a memorial of despotism, and then, a few lines later, hailing Place de la Révolution (today Place de la Concorde) as the entrance to a new world :

  • 38Nu kastar jag en blick över hela denna ofantliga och ofullständiga massa, som Louvre och Tuileries (...)

I now take a glance at the enormous and incomplete lot that the Louvre and the Tuileries constitute together. What an incoherent enormity! This is despotism in all its greediness and wildness ; in all its incomplete size and overloaded with decorations. […] From the dazzling background a majestic image beckons to me. A feeling pervades me : Place de la Révolution. I approach. The entrance is guarded by a Victory and a Mercury on flying horses. By heroism and genius. I stand in front of the beckoning image : it is freedom. Liberté, Liberté, chérie! sings at distance a wandering soldier. Liberté, égalité, fraternité is what I read on the beautiful portraits that enrapture me. But a tear, not only of delight, but also of sorrow descends from my eyes. Here bled Louis XVI. Miserable he who cannot hate despotism without feeling compassion for an unfortunate man, whose only crime was to be born a king.38

28This quote sets the tone of Franzén’s diary, which is influenced by a pre-romantic mood. While Paris as a whole stands for liberty, the Louvre’s disproportionate grandeur exemplifies the greed of despotism. In contrast, the statue of freedom raised in Place de la Révolution stands as a gateway to a new era in the history of mankind, whose echo resounds in the motto of the Revolution. This tone of enthusiasm and excitement, as well as the way in which Franzén lets buildings personify different political stances, recurs in his descriptions from Versailles. In two passages, in which he compares the city of Versailles and the palace of Louis XIV with the building of the Jeu de Paume, Franzén declares once again his political sympathies :

Versailles. Such beautiful streets. The inhabitants seem to be royalists : no wonder in that, they have suffered a lot from the removal of the court. And the brilliance of the court blinds. Everything resembles the deserted castles described in fairy tales.

The castle is an odd assembly : one facade of great beauty, another repugnant, and also Louis XIV [possibly an error for Louis XVI] started to reconstruct it, but the works were suspended. Empty and deserted – it is not possible to pass through these halls of kingly majesty without having some serious reflexions. Narrow and dirty corridors in the interior of the castle.

Brilliance and dirtiness are the distinctive characters of the Frenchmen : they are elegant in the dressing, residences, everything that shows is fine, but there is so much dirt behind the gold.

  • 39 ‘Versailles. Vilka präktiga gator. Invånarne tycktes vara rojalister: intet under, de ha lidit myck (...)

The Gallery (renowned in the whole world) is adorned with mirrors reflecting the garden et cetera that is outside of the castle, and with some of the most renowned paintings of Lebrun bear witness to his talent, but even more to Louis XIV’s pride. How could a living person endure so much flattery, such a divinization from painters, poets etc? He is here sometimes [represented] as Jupiter sitting on an eagle and throwing his thunder on the people, and in the next allegorical image he is divinized!!! Some beautiful antiquities adorn this truly beautiful hall.39

29The absence of the king and his court has transformed Versailles into a place of the past, more suitable for ‘fairy tales’ than real life. Nonetheless, the palace in Franzén inspires several ‘serious reflexions’. Almost like a classical ruin – with which it can be compared due to the loss of its foremost inhabitant – the palace invites one to contemplate the course of human events and in particular the condition of post-revolutionary France. Furthermore, in his judgement on the beauty of (at least) some parts of the palace, Franzén offers several political considerations on the absurdity of absolutism. In particular, the divinization of Louis XIV is criticized. Absolutism is presented as a seductive ideology that has blinded the French people with its brilliance. Even the unflattering characterizations of the French and their taste for appearances seem to be connected with political assumptions. Architecture epitomizes the tension between appearances and substance when Franzén, a few lines later, contrasts the majestic palace and the simple Jeu de Paume :

  • 40 ‘Le Jeu de Paume: en liten, usel, osnygg och bortglömd byggnad – och det föraktliga krypet har gjor (...)

Le Jeu de Paume : a small building, miserable, ugly and forgotten – and this small detestable worm has played all the prideful palace, which barely noticed its smallness, the joke that we all know. Here gathered les membres de la constitution française and swore that they would not separate. A copperplate [has been placed] on the wall to remind of this […]40

30The humility of the Jeu de Paume is counterbalanced by the greatness of the action that took place between its walls and resulted in the downfall of monarchical power.

31Franzén intermingles similar descriptions with a discussion on the status of the different arts. A reflection on the art of dancing leads the young poet to revisit the relation between art and nature in accordance with a pre-romantic aesthetics :

  • 41 ‘Danskonsten även som flera andra konster är ingen imitation av naturen, utan en fullkomning av hen (...)

The art of dancing, like many other arts, is not an imitation of nature, but rather a fulfilment of it. Just like the art of gardening is a fulfilment of dead nature, the art of singing and dancing are respectively a fulfilment of man’s voice and body. What is the aim of the fine arts? It is to seek for beauty, separate it from what is ugly and depict it in as lively a way possible for the eyes or thinking of man. This can be done by education or perfection, as well as by imitation of nature : by means of words, colours, stone or living persons. Just like the cultivated man, the fine arts are often an educated nature. The genius of man does not only imitate, it creates. Or at least it accomplishes what nature has designed.41

  • 42Gardel! Gardel! Vad äro Racine och Corneille emot dig!’ (ibid., p. 127).

32In this quote Franzén expresses a recurrent stance in his diary, namely his critique of French classicism and its representatives. This position is exemplified in the following lines, in which he praises the dancer and choreographer Pierre-Gabriel Gardel (1758–1840), whose patriotic themes and adherence to the Revolution are contrasted with the theatre of Racine and Corneille : ‘Gardel! Gardel! What are Racine and Corneille compared to you!’42 Franzén is just as political in his discussions of theatre as in the above-mentioned descriptions of architecture. His disapproval of the great playwrights of the seventeenth century is in equal measure a critique of their theatre as of the Ancien Régime they stand for. Classicism, with its universalist claims, is criticized because of its connection to absolutism.

33Finally, a paradox pervades Franzén’s impressions of France. On one hand the country and its citizens are praised for the Revolution and its victory of freedom over despotism ; on the other hand the unnatural, stilted and mannered legacy of absolutism are not only to be found in architecture – the Louvre or la Grande Galerie in Versailles – but also in the acting style of certain French actors and, by extension, of French manners in general. Like many other contemporaries all over Europe, Franzén eventually abandoned his juvenile fascination for the Revolution and later in life embraced more conservative positions, especially after his appointment to the post of bishop.

Conclusion

34What general trends or common traits can we find in the Swedish reactions to Versailles in the eighteenth century considered above? To restate my forewarning, it is hardly possible to give a general account of the Swedish view of Versailles representing that of the entire century. Ferrner, Armfelt and Franzén show a variety of positions – at times also within their own writings – which depend on several factors, such as the aims and purposes of their travels, their social extraction and, not to be overlooked, their different sensibilities. However, a few general trends can be identified, such as a growing disapproval of the ceremonies and glorification of French absolute monarchy, of which Versailles was the undisputable symbol. This dislike – more hinted at than stated outright by Ferrner, while vigorously expressed by Franzén – seems to be connected to an increasing weariness of Versailles in the writings of the Swedish travellers. This tendency is notably reversed in the particular case of Armfelt’s diary. His familiarity with Gustav III and the more intimate experience of the French court derived from it are plausible explanations for this view, which runs counter to that of the other travellers. The uniqueness of his account – which stands out even more when compared to the ordinary description of young officer Mikael Hisinger and the political turmoil experienced by diplomat Erik Bergstedt – is revealing of the extent to which the presence of the French king was essential. Franzén emphasizes in his diary Versailles’s loss of status as a royal residence because of the absence of Louis XVI. Still, the palace is pervaded with a majestic symbolism serving as a warning against human pride and its most extreme expression : absolutism.

35A final, significant aspect that unites the journeys of these three Swedes, also included among my preliminary observations, is the relation/tension between Versailles and Paris that is revealed in their writings. The two cities are either in conflict, as in the case of Ferrner, or mutually reinforce one another, as in Armfelt’s diary. The importance of the travellers’ visits to Versailles must therefore be understood in the larger context of their impressions of Paris and, ideally, of France in general.

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Bibliographie

Unpublished and printed primary sources

Armfelt Gustaf Mauritz, 1997, Resan till Italien : Gustaf Mauritz Armfelts resedagbok 1783–1784, Rainer Knapas (ed.), Stockholm, Atlantis.

Bergstedt to Rosenstein, 9 April 1792. Uppsala, Uppsala University Library (UUL), Paris (F 651 a).

Brice Germain, 1752, Description de la ville de Paris, et de tout ce qu’elle contient de plus remarquable, Paris, Libraires Associés, 2 volumes.

Ferrner Bengt, 1956, Resa i Europa. En astronom, industrispion och teaterhabitué genom Danmark, Tyskland, Holland, England, Frankrike och Italien 1758–1762, Sten G. Lindberg (ed.), Uppsala, Almqvist & Wiksells boktryckeri.

Franzén Frans Michael, 1977, Resedagbok 1795-1796, Anders Hernmarck (ed.), Stockholm, LTs Förlag.

Hisinger Mikael, 2015, Resedagbok från Europa 1783–1784, Jouni Kuurne and Märtha Norrback (eds), Helsinki, Svenska Litteratursällskapet i Finland / Stockholm, Atlantis.

Piganiol de La Force Jean-Aymar, 1701, Nouvelle description des chasteaux et parcs de Versailles et de Marly […], Paris, Florentin & Pierre Delaulne.

Secondary literature

Bastien Vincent, 2017, ‘Un allié Francophile : Gustave III de Suède’, in Kisluk-Grosheide Daniëlle and Rondot Bertrand (eds), Visiteurs de Versailles. Voyageurs, princes, ambassadeurs, 1682-1789, exh. cat. (Versailles, Château de Versailles, 22 October 2017–25 February 2018), Paris, Gallimard / Versailles, Château de Versailles, pp. 278–83.

Berglund Lars, 2013, ‘Travelling and the Formation of Taste: The European Journey of Bengt Ferrner and Jean Lefebure 1758–1763’, in Göran Rydén (ed.), Sweden in the Eighteenth-Century World : Provincial Cosmopolitans, Farnham, Ashgate, pp. 95–119.

Black Jeremy, 1992, The British Abroad. The Grand Tour in the Eighteenth Century, Stroud, Sutton Publishing.

Boutier Jean, 2017, ‘Le Grand Tour : les noblesses européennes à Versailles’, in Kisluk-Grosheide Daniëlle and Rondot Bertrand (eds), Visiteurs de Versailles. Voyageurs, princes, ambassadeurs 1682–1789, exh. cat. (Versailles, Château de Versailles, 22 October 2017–25 February 2018), Paris, Gallimard / Versailles, Château de Versailles, pp. 234–41.

Chard Chloe, 1999, Pleasure and Guilt on the Grand Tour: Travel Writing and Imaginative Geography, Manchester, Manchester University Press.

Da Vinha Mathieu, 2018, Au service du roi : les métiers à la cour de Versailles, Paris, Tallandier.

Fogelberg Rota Stefano, 2013, ‘Education, Pilgrimage and Pleasure: The Rhetorical Strategies in the Writings of Three Eighteenth-Century Swedish Travellers to Italy’, in Tschudi Victor Plahte and Seim Turid Karlsen (eds), From Site to Sight: The Transformation of Place in Art and Literature, Roma, Institutum Romanum Norvegiae, Acta ad Archaeologiam et Artium Historiam Pertinentia, volumen XXVI, pp. 123–37.

Grate Pontus, Lemoine Pierre and Samoyault-Verlet Colombe (eds), 1994, Le Soleil et l’Étoile du Nord : La France et la Suède au xviiie siècle, exh. cat. (Galeries nationales du Grand Palais, Paris, 15 March–13 June 1994), Paris, Réunion des Musées Nationaux.

Le Roi Joseph-Adrien, 1861, Histoire des rues de Versailles et de ses places et avenues, Versailles, Auguste Montalant.

Lindberg Sten G., 1956, ‘Ferrner, Bengt’, in Svenskt biografiskt lexikon, vol. 15, Stockholm, pp. 635–44.

Lundström Enni (ed.), 1914, Strödda bref från svenskar i Italien – ur Upsala universitetsbiblioteks samlingar, Göteborg, Eranos förlag.

Lundström Gösta, [1964–1966], ‘Franzén, Frans Michael’, in Svenskt biografiskt lexikon, vol. 16, Stockholm, pp. 425–37.

Nordin Jonas, 2009, Frihetstidens monarki: konungamakt och offentlighet i 1700-talets Sverige, Stockholm, Atlantis.

Nordin Jonas, 2013, Versailles: slottet, parken, livet, Stockholm, Norstedt.

Orrje Jacob, 2015, ‘Patriotic and Cosmopolitan Patchworks: Following a Swedish Astronomer into London’s Communities of Maritime Longitude, 1759–60’, in Dunn Richard and Higgitt Rebekah (eds), Navigational Enterprises in Europe and Its Empires, 1730–1850, Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 89–110. 

Roberts Michael, 1986, The Age of Liberty. Sweden 1719–1772, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.

Skuncke Marie-Christine and Tandefelt Henrika (eds), 2003, Riksdag, kaffehus och predikstol. Frihetstidens politiska kultur 1766–1772, Helsinki, Svenska litteratursällskapet i Finland / Stockholm, Atlantis.

Stavenow L., 1920, ‘Armfelt, Gustaf Mauritz’, in Svenskt biografiskt lexikon, vol. 2, Stockholm, pp. 203–214.

Thomasson Fredrik, 2013, The Life of J.D. Åkerblad: Egyptian Decipherment and Orientalism in Revolutionary Times, Brill, Leiden.

Venturi Franco, 1979, ‘Tra repubbliche monarchiche e monarchie repubblicane: la Svezia’, in Settecento riformatore. III. La prima crisi dell’Antico Regime 1768–1776, Torino, Einaudi, pp. 281–42.

Wolff Charlotta, 2005, Vänskap och makt: den svenska politiska eliten och upplysningstidens Frankrike, Helsingfors, Svenska litteratursällskapet i Finland.

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Notes

1 On the cultural, political and social relations between Sweden and France in the eighteenth century there is an abundant bibliography. For a survey of previous research on the topic and for an in-depth study of these relations, see Wolff 2005, in particular pp. 13–36. On the artistic connections between the two countries see Grate 1994.

2 Regarding the French influence on the so-called hattarna, see Wolff 2005, pp. 56–61. Here, Wolff discusses how the other major party, Mösspartiet (the party of the caps), also remained receptive to French culture although they preferred to direct Swedish politics towards England and Russia.

3 Before arriving in France Ferrner and his pupil had covered Denmark, Holland, England and Scotland. After France they continued their journey to Italy.

4 The bibliography in regard to the Grand Tour is prolific and I will therefore only refer to two major contributions, Black 1992 and Chard 1999. See also, more specifically on Versailles, Boutier 2017.

5 Ferrner 1956.

6 Ferrner 1956, p. 345.

7 For an account of Swedish politics in the Age of Liberty see Venturi 1979, Roberts 1986 and Nordin 2009. For the period’s lively cultural debates see Skuncke and Tandefelt 2003.

8 Ferrner’s diary from Italy is only partially preserved. In fact, only his stays in the Republic of Genoa and the Duchy of Milan are extant.

9 Berglund 2013.

10Kl. 5 gingo vi in i Palais de Tuilleries [sic], hvarest en andelig musique, Concert spirituel, upfördes. En air i Italienska smaken med franska ord jämte en violon solo var där för mig alt nöjet. Resten var i den torra och entoniga franska smaken’. Ferrner 1956, pp. 347–48.

11 ‘Dec. d. 4. Reste jag kl. 8 om morgon i följe med en strasburgare vid namn Boch ut till Versailles. Vi kommo dit då kungen och Dauphin voro i mässan, hvarest vi äfven instälde oss. Kungen reste strax ut på jakt. Dauphin & Duc de Berry åkte äfven ut för ro skull. Derefter besågo vi rummen i Slottet hvaraf det Stora Galleriet är det förnämsta. Stället är icke öfver sig präktigt, men Parken kostelig. Uti Menageriet äro der raraste djur, strutsen, Pelican, Seban, Isländska fåren och buffeloxarne ifrån Africa som ej äro särdeles stora. Versailles är ett ledsamt tillhåll, alt såg här dödt och ängsligt ut. M:r Roussiere en bekant med Hr Boch bad mig och honom ut att soupera med sig. Middag spiste vi på trois Empereurs mycket tarfveligt. Reste sedan till Paris och kommo in kl. ½ 7.’ Ferrner 1956, p. 353. This quote, as well as those regarding Versailles by Armfelt, Hisinger and Franzén, are translated into French by Prof. Marie-Christine Skuncke in the database ‘Visiteurs de Versailles’, accessible at the following address: http://www.chateauversailles-recherche-ressources.fr/jlbweb/jlbWeb?html=accueil. I thank Prof. Skuncke for giving me access to her translations.

12 Like many of his contemporaries, Ferrner probably used a guidebook to Versailles such as Jean-Aimar Piganiol de la Force’s popular Nouvelle description des chasteaux et parcs de Versailles et de Marly reprinted several times (Piganiol de la Force 1701). In his diary Ferrner refers to a guidebook to Paris: ‘November 5. I went to see the Hôtel des Invalides which is magnificent. See la description de la ville de Paris’ (‘Nov. d. 5 Gick jag och besåg l’hotel des Invalides, som är magnefiqut. Se la description de la Ville de Paris.’, Ferrner 1956, p. 348). The Swedish astronomer is probably referring here to Germain Brice’s Description de la ville de Paris reprinted in 1752 (Brice 1752).

13 The Trois Empereurs was located at the ‘Petite Place’, between the present-day streets of Sainte-Anne, Peintre Lebrun and Carnot (see Le Roi 1861, p. 76).

14 Ferrner 1956, p. 349.

15 Lundström 1914, p. 31. On Celsius and his journey to Rome in 1734 see Fogelberg Rota 2013.

16 Berglund 2013, p. 109.

17 Lindberg 1956, pp. 635–44.

18 Berglund 2013, p. 118.

19 Orrje 2015, p. 94. The proximity of patriotic and cosmopolitan stances in Swedish eighteenth-century thought is discussed, in relation to France, in Wolff 2005, p. 17.

20 Stavenow 1920, pp. 203–214.

21 On Gustav III’s first visit to Versailles, see Bastien 2017, p. 280.

22Den 12 juni var jag hemma hela förmiddagen, efter middagen for jag ut på visiter och la Comedie italienne hvaräst de gåfvo Isabelle och Fernande, en elack piece. Vi hade först varit au francois så piecen var börjad, men publiquen som aplauderade onaturligen begärte att de skulle börja å nyo, hvilket skedde. Vi reste därifrån till Versailles på gref Vergennes soupé som var ganska trög, gingo därifrån till Princessan Lamballe hvaräst alla voro quar ännu, samt Monsieur och gref d’Artois’ (Armfelt 1997, p. 177).

23 The full title of this opera is Isabelle et Fernand, ou l’Alcalde de Zalamea; comédie en trois Actes, en Vers, mêlés d’Ariettes (1784).

24 For an overview of the life at court in Versailles see Mathieu da Vinha’s numerous works, such as Da Vinha 2018, and Nordin 2013.

25 Armfelt 1997.

26Den 17 juni var jag hela förmiddagen ute för att göra amplettes och se gamla connoisancer, eftermiddagen for jag ut med kungen till la Marechalle Duras, och därifrån på Operan les Danaïdes. Vi reste därifrån till Versailles och souperade med hela kongliga familien i Cabinetterne. Bägge kungarne sutto ihop och jag bredvid Madame som jag fant rätt aimable. Efter soupén speltes lotto, grefven af Haga, Baron Taube och jag gjorde drottningens parti, och tappade våra penningar. Jag var på kungen i Frankrikes couché’ (ibid., pp. 179–80).

27 The previous day – 16 June – Armfelt and King Gustav attended a concert in the same private chambers in which Marie Antoinette sang: ‘In the afternoon there was a concert in which the Queen sang well’ (‘Eftermiddagen var en concert där Drottningen söng, artigt nog’, ibid., p. 179).

28Vi foro sedermera au francois där de gåvo le mariage de Figareau. Piecen var redan börjad, mens om kungen kom in blef en faslig aplaudissement, han bockade med modestie för publiquen och det redoublerade, äfven började de skrika qu’on recommence de nouveau. Piecen börjades å nyo och som Marechal de Biron och le Baron Breteuil kommo i logen så gick jag i den som hör till les Premiers Gentilshommes de la Chambre där jag blef tills kungen for till Versailles’ (ibid., p. 176).

29 Hisinger 2015.

3029 September. We went to Versailles and the Petit Trianon that we were authorised to visit thanks to a recommendation by the [Swedish] Ambassador’ (‘Den 29 september. Foro vi ut till Versailles och Petit Trianon som vi genom Ambassadeurens förord fingo lof at bese.’, ibid., p. 252).

31Sedan foro vi opp till Versailles, besågo de Kongliga rummen och kungens privata, emedan han var å Jakt. De visa ej något utmärkt vackert eller besynnerligt. Stora Galleriet har en skön wûe, Platfonden är målad af Le Brun och förställer Louis XIV historia, uti de stora Parade rummen äro mäst öfver alt målningar af Le Brun’ (ibid., p. 253).

32 Thomasson 2013, p. 144.

33 Bergstedt to Rosenstein, 9 April 1792. Uppsala, Uppsala University Library (UUL), Paris, F 651 a. The letter is translated and quoted in English in Thomasson 2013, pp. 144–45. I thank Fredrik Thomasson for directing my attention to Bergstedt’s account.

34På Couren frågade Konungen efter mig. Jag hade assisterat vid förbönen i Capellet för Kgn [Konungen], och hade derigenom den olyckan att komma för sent. Men drottningen talade länge med mig på dess Cour och om aftonen på Dess Spel. Denna sällsynta distinction som förut äfven vedfarits mig har fästat mycken uppmärksamhet på min person, och skaffat mig ett slags anseende som mycket bidrar att öka agrements af min härvaro. Jag är här i den lyckligaste belägenhet jag kan önska. Om jag vore Svensk Envoyé kunde jag ej vara bättre bemött’ (ibid., p. 145).

35 Thomasson 2013, p. 143.

36 Lundström 1964–66, pp. 425–37.

37 Franzén 1977, pp. 9–14.

38Nu kastar jag en blick över hela denna ofantliga och ofullständiga massa, som Louvre och Tuileries tillsammans utgöra. Vilken osammanhängande ofantlighet! Detta är despotismen i sin glupskhet, i all sin vildhet, i all sin ofulländade storlek, överlastad av prydnader. […] Djupt i den bländande fonden vinkar mig en majestätisk bild. Aningen fyller mig: Place de la Révolution, jag nalkas: ingången bevakas av en Victoria och en Mercur på flygande hästar: av hjältemodet och snillet. Jag ställer mig för den vinkande bilden: det är friheten. Liberté, Liberté, chérie! sjunger på långt håll en vandrande soldat. Liberté, égalité, fraternité läser jag på präktiga poträtterne, som hänrycka mig. Men en tår, ej blott av tjusning, en tår av sorg trillar ifrån mina ögon. Här blödde Ludvig XVI. Ve den, som ej kan avsky despotismen utan att vägra sitt medlidande åt en olycklig människa, vars enda brott var att födas kung’ (ibid., pp. 125–26).

39 ‘Versailles. Vilka präktiga gator. Invånarne tycktes vara rojalister: intet under, de ha lidit mycket av hovets bortflyttning. Och hovets glans föblindar. Allt liknade de i sagorna beskrivna öde slott. Slottet en besynnerlig sammanstappling: en fasad ganska skön, en annan avskylig, också har Ludvig XIV begynt att bygga om den, men det har stannat av. Tomt och öde – man kan icke gå igenom dessa kongliga majestät rummen utan att giva en och annan allvarsam reflexion. Trånga och smutsiga gångar inom slottet. Glans och smuts äro fransosernas kännemärken: de äro själva snygga i sin dräkt, deras boningshus, allt vad som syns är präkigt och ofta snyggt, men mycket, mycket smuts ligger bakom gullet. Galleriet (det världsberömda) där är beklätt med speglar som reflektera parken et cetera, som är utom slottet och de namnkunnigaste målningar av Lebrun, som vittna om hans skicklighet, men kanske ännu mera om Ludvig XIV:s högmod. Huru kunde en dödlig människa bära så mycket smicker, en sådan förgudning av målare och poeter etc.? Här är han ibland som Jupiter sittande på sin örn och slungande sin åska på folken, och i en annan allegorisk bild förgudad!!! Några sköna antiker pryda denna verkligen vackra sal’ (ibid., p. 138).

40 ‘Le Jeu de Paume: en liten, usel, osnygg och bortglömd byggnad – och det föraktliga krypet har gjort hela det högfärdiga slottet, som knappt gav akt på dess ringhet, ett sådant spratt som man vet. Här samlades les membres de la constitution française och svuro att ej söndras. En kopparplåt på väggen till åminnelse därav’ (ibid., p. 139).

41 ‘Danskonsten även som flera andra konster är ingen imitation av naturen, utan en fullkomning av henne. Liksom trädgårdskonsten är en fullkomning av den döda naturen, likaså är sång- och danskonsten av människans röst och kropp. Vad är de sköna konsternas syfte? Det är att söka det sköna, skilja det från det fula och framställa det så livligt som möjligt för människans ögon eller tanke: det må ske genom utbildning och fullkomning eller genom imitation av naturen: medelst ord, färgor, sten, eller levande människor. Såsom den uppodlade människan själv, så äro ock de sköna konsterna ofta en utbildad natur. Människosnillet imiterar inte endast, han skapar, eller åtminstone utför vad naturen utkastat’ (ibid., pp. 128–29).

42Gardel! Gardel! Vad äro Racine och Corneille emot dig!’ (ibid., p. 127).

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Stefano Fogelberg Rota, « Versailles Through Swedish Eyes in the Eighteenth Century », Bulletin du Centre de recherche du château de Versailles [En ligne],  | 2020, mis en ligne le 08 décembre 2020, consulté le 26 janvier 2021. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/crcv/18481 ; DOI : https://doi.org/10.4000/crcv.18481

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Auteur

Stefano Fogelberg Rota

Stefano Fogelberg Rota is Associate Professor in Literature at the Department of Culture and Media Studies at Umeå University. He has published several studies on Queen Christina of Sweden (1626–1689) and her literary patronage. His research interests focus on, among other topics, Swedish travel literature from Italy during the Age of Liberty (Frihetstiden, 1719–1772).
Stefano Fogelberg Rota est professeur associé de littérature au département des études culturelles et médiatiques de l’université d’Umeå (Suède). Il a publié plusieurs études sur la reine Christine de Suède (1626-1689) et son mécénat littéraire. Ses recherches portent, notamment, sur les récits de voyageurs suédois en Italie pendant l’ère de la Liberté (Frihetstiden, 1719-1772).
E-mail : stefano.fogelberg.rota[at]umu.se

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