Palais de Petersens

Count Piper's Palace in Stockholm: now known as Petersenska Huset

This may be a later version: check Gabriel Bodenehr. 1664-1758 ?
It seems cut down, with a simplified foreground.

dated 1702

dated 1705

dated 1702

dated 1705

The appearance of I.Sailmaker's name on this print, which is well-known in Sweden in its earlier impression dated 1702, is little short of astonishing. I could hardly believe my eyes when I noticed a copy of the print hanging in the home of one of my Swedish cousins. When I discussed it with Michael Robinson he suggested that the name had been added, perhaps in Holland, for purposes of sale in England. It is, of course, exceedingly unlikely that Sailmaker would have been the actual "delineator" of this prospect, which is still one of the most prominent landmarks in Stockholm's Old Town, and it suggests that his name may even have been used as a brand marque on other prints he had no hand in. The 1705 date is worth noting.

It also indicates, however, that there was a London interest in Sweden and Swedish shipping, which is, to a limited extent, confirmed by the appearance of vessels flying Swedish flags, or what may be a Swedish flag, in other pictures and prints. At some time about in the 1740s or 1750s this building was acquired by Herman Petersen, whose sons were ennobled under the name of af Petersens. This man, of a family which can be traced back to Lübeck in the late 1600s, was at this period one of the two or three richest men in Sweden, a leading merchant in Gothenburg and Stockholm with large interests in the Swedish East India Company and other enterprises.

a swedish ship off greenwich by peter monamy, 1739 or 1740

It has sometimes seemed strange to me that Samuel Scott's admired painting from 1736 should be of a Danish timber bark, since Denmark is not noted as a country celebrated for its timber. Whereas Sweden, on the other hand, is and was.

The flag in Scott's painting, left, is, however, obviously Danish. Pictures can acquire time-hallowed titles which are wrong, but the NMM website meticulously establishes that the ship's cargo was timber.

Difficult to tell if the flag in Swaine's print, right, is Swedish or Danish. Thomson, in Liberty, 1736, wrote of the Swedes as the manly race who "wise and dauntless still sustain" the cause of freedom.

detail from small print
A Strong Gale or Squall
after Francis Swaine

Dr Johnson's mature opinion was that Liberty needed neither praise nor defence. Johnson, of course, was a Tory, who hated Whigs and Americans with undisguised fervour. Nevertheless, in spite of the great interest Liberty contains to anyone seeking some sense of prevailing thought among a large section of the politically-minded in the 1730s, it must be recognized that, as poetry, Thomson's poem is the nearest thing imaginable to prose. With regard to Swaine's print, my guess is that his gallantly scudding merchantman is flying a Swedish flag. With regard to Scott's immobile timber bark, it might be recalled that Denmark had been Sweden's enemy since 1520. The line from Sailmaker, via Monamy, to Swaine is strong.

Scott's Danish timber bark may, of course, have been carrying Norwegian timber, since Norway was under Danish rule at this period. Christine Gerrard's The Patriot Opposition to Walpole: Politics, Poetry, and National Myth, 1725-1742, published 1994, is required reading for anyone seeking to understand Monamy's role in English art during these crucial years of his life's work. Among its many revelations is the image of 16th, 17th, and early 18th century Sweden presented in her long section on Patriotic Gothic, starting on page 108. Thomson's perception of the Swedes is noted in my 1983 article, but I was then unaware of Henry Brooke's Gustavus Vasa, 1739, which she quotes on p.114. "Brooke's play was all about a 'Deliverer of his Country' from foreign oppression (notionally Frederick, but, as we have seen, thought by some to be the Pretender). The setting is sixteenth-century Sweden, 'Queen of the North!', home of 'A Race of hardy, northern Sons', 'Whose Hands scorned Bondage, for their Hearts were free'. Gustavus leads his brave mountain peasants in a revolt against domestic corruption and foreign oppression. The Prologue proves this is a play as much about Britons as Swedes." The play's performance was prohibited on political grounds, but acted five years later in Dublin, 1744. Monamy's introduction of a Swedish ship in his Greenwich painting, which I believe to be based on the Buck print (which doesn't depict a Swedish ship), seems like a deliberate comment on the banning of Brooke's patriotic play.

In his 1739 Prefatory Dedication to the subscribers, "very numerous and respectable", who actually included Samuel Johnson and Jonathan Swift, Brooke writes: "This piece was about five weeks in rehearsal; the day was appointed for acting; I had disposed of many hundred tickets; and imagined I had nothing to fear ..... But, then it was, ... I met with repulse. I was condemned and punished in my works, without being accused of any crime ..... or knowing in what instance I had given offence." Johnson wrote an ironic attack on the play's suppression.

Then, hail Gustavus, who his country freed!
Ye sons of Britain, praise, the glorious Swede!
Who, bravely rais'd, and generously releas'd,
From blood-stain'd tyrant, and perfidious priest,
The state and church expiring, at a breath!
Who held a life of slav'ry worse than death!

From the play's Epilogue.

Following the fall of Walpole in 1742, however, coupled with the relative lack of naval success after the capture of Porto Bello --- with the signal exception of the taking of Louisburg, which was returned to the French in 1748 --- disillusion set in among many former fiery supporters of the patriotic cause, including Johnson. The constant undercurrent of political ambiguity in events and publications during these uneasy times is apparent. Brooke's play is itself ambiguous, and perhaps he was alluding to George II as the tyrant. The appointment of the Duke of Norfolk, secular head of English Roman Catholicism, as Grandmaster of Freemasonry, in 1729-30, as well as his presentation of the sword of Gustavus Adolphus to Grand Lodge in 1731, strike me as intriguing. God Save the King, as noted, is open to crypto-Jacobite interpretation. Monamy's paintings, however, are uniformly unambiguous, although an atmosphere of deep depression may be sensed in them from about 1743 onwards.

The yacht Mary, a magnificent gift from the Netherlands to Charles II in 1660, shown
beside the Royal Swedish yacht Hjorten in Amsterdam, by Backhuysen, 1665.
Dutch hopes at the Restoration of the sly Stuart monarch went unfulfilled.
From Ludolf Backhuysen, 2002, by Gerlinde de Beer, page 66.

That Swedish history offered a precedent for liberty and the Glorious Revolution, as perceived well before Walpole and Brooke's Gustavus Vasa, is evident from a play entitled The Revolution of Sweden, which opened at the newly built Haymarket Theatre on 11th February 1706. Written by Mrs Catherine Trotter, "she kept close to the History, but wanting the just Decorum of Plays, (it) expir'd the Sixth Day." See Roscius Anglicanus, by John Downes.

isaac sailmaker
map of stockholm by william hogarth: 1723
sailmaker & gothenburg
artistic range
monamy website index


© Charles Harrison Wallace 2002, 2003, 2017
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