TREASURES FROM THE COLLECTIONS
The extensive collections belonging to Museum Gustavianum can be compared to an enormous ‘cabinet of curiosities’. They include the Uppsala University Coin Cabinet, the University Art Collections and Gustavianum Historical Collections.
Between them, these collections comprise hundreds of thousands of objects of a wide variety of types and periods. The Coin Cabinet is one of Sweden’s leading holdings of coins and medals. The Art Collections include everything from painting and sculpture to furniture and textiles. Some of this art is on display at Uppsala Castle, but a large proportion of it adorns the many public spaces of the University.
The Historical Collections contain both scientific instruments and everyday objects used over the long history of the University. They also include archaeological collections from Scandinavia, Greek and Roman antiquity, and Egypt, as well as an anatomical collection.
With this exhibition, we would like to take you on a tour of the large treasure house that our collections represent.
The exhibition was shown in 2015-2017.
Model of a Skull
1950s or 1960s
Historical Collections of Gustavianum
This model belonged to the Department of Medical Cell Biology. Models of organs were used in the teaching of anatomy as early as the 18th century, but they were handmade from wax. Eventually, plaster and plastics began to be used and the models were made by machine.
Models did not take the place of real anatomical specimens, but were a useful complement, as the plastics and, in this case, plaster were hard-wearing and easy to handle.
Still Life with Tulips, Roses, Irises and Carnations, 1668
Jacob Marrel (1613/14–1681)
Oil on canvas
Uppsala University Art Collections, UU 790
As the wars of the 17th century raged, the Dutch developed a refined style of still-life painting. Flower pieces featuring tulips were particularly sought after and expensive.
Art thus became involved in the contemporary speculation in tulip bulbs. But while artists were employed to boost interest in investing in the bulbs market, the paintings themselves also became objects of speculation.
Eventually, these costly tulip paintings turned out to be a safer investment than the actual bulbs. Art proved more enduring, both financially and in reality. Marrel’s bouquet has yet to wilt.
Frisian Two-Shilling Coins
Wars, coins and tulips were intertwined in the 17th century. The Thirty Years War brought with it sharp inflation. The value of coins fell dramatically, and just as dramatic was the search for profitable investments that could offer a return despite the high inflation.
In 1634, therefore, people began to invest in tulips, borrowing money to buy the bulbs. The demand for tulip bulbs far outstripped the supply.
To attract the attention of investors, artists were employed to paint vivid, colourful pictures of tulips that did not necessarily always exist in reality.
In February 1637, the bubble burst.
Copper Hip Flask
18th or 19th century
Historical Collections of Gustavianum, B975
Given by Mr Lundegren, a farmer, in 1899. It was found during digging work in a churchyard around 1850. The flask was buried with a corpse. It contained a liquid, which the workmen tasted, found to be aquavit and drank up.
Historical Collections of Gustavianum, UMF746
This axe is from the early Bronze Age. In the 19th century, it was referred to as a ‘thunderbolt’ and used as a charm against lightning. Given by Baron Emanuel Cederström.
The axe was bought by Cederström around 1900 from an old woman at Hammarby, who admittedly considered it indispensable for warding off thunder and fire, but who, believing that the Last Judgment would occur the very next Sunday, was happy to part with it.
Twelve-Metre Long String of Beads Part of a Painted Goat’s Skull
Historical Collections of Gustavianum, SJE170/33
Finds excavated by the Scandinavian Joint Expedition to Nubia of 1961–64. They come from a female burial belonging to the Pan Grave culture in present-day Sudan.
The beads were found around the woman’s head. Were they a necklace – or what do you think?
The goat’s skull was found in the same grave.
Roman Glass Bowl, Bottle and Vessel
c.100 BC–AD 100; AD 100; AD 200
Historical Collections of Gustavianum, VM3106, VM3107, VM3105
The bowl – known as a ‘ribbed bowl’ – is made from cast glass. Bowls of this kind continued to be produced by casting long after glassmakers had learnt how to blow glass.
The bottle was intended for oil and perfume. It, too, is of cast glass.
The vessel is an early example of blown glass.
This lantern belonged to Henrik Fleming. He was a district judge, speaker of the House of Nobility, cavalry officer, and governor of various Swedish provinces.
Fleming went to Moscow on a diplomatic mission in 1634. Prior to his departure, he had demanded such a large fee for his involvement that he was forced to apologise before being allowed to be part of the Swedish delegation.
He brought the lantern back with him from the visit.
Historical Collections of Gustavianum, VMB189
In the 1990s, this portrait was stolen. Many years later it was handed in for sale at the Uppsala Auction House, but staff there became suspicious. The portrait was returned to the Museum’s collections under police escort.
During its absence the painting had been framed, but it should not have a frame at all, as it was originally placed over the face of an Egyptian mummy.
Historical Collections of Gustavianum, UAS1536
Find from the Swedish Cyprus Expedition of 1927–31. The figure is one of almost 1,000 similar pieces found placed around a sacred stone at the Ayia Irini sanctuary in Cyprus.
Pehr Hilleström (1732–1818)
Oil on canvas
Uppsala University Art Collections, UU 1702
Fires feature in many of Pehr Hilleström’s paintings. Holding a terrifying fascination for the public of the day, they were a popular subject.
The artist had personal experience of the damage a fire could do. In 1751, his family saw their home completely destroyed by one, forcing them to live for a long time in a small woodshed.
This burning farmhouse was painted in the 1790s. The glow of the fire, the smoke, and the futile attempts to extinguish the flames all add to the dramatic mood of the picture.
Historical Collections of Gustavianum
This table comes from the old Department of Anatomy, which was in the Munken area of central Uppsala. In winter, the dissecting room was gloomy and freezing cold.
Sometimes students had to bring their own tallow candles with them to be able to do their work. To gain a degree, they were required to have successfully dissected three bodies.
Sporting Gun with Powder Horn
17th or 18th century
Historical Collections of Gustavianum, B154, B114
The gun is inscribed GRS 1540. The letters stand for Gustavus Rex Sueciae – Latin for Gustav, King of Sweden – implying that its owner was Gustav Vasa.
The engraving is a forgery however, having been added afterwards, probably to increase the weapon’s value at auction. The rifled barrel reveals that the gun was made at least 100 years after 1540.
Nonetheless, with its ivory inlays, this is a magnificent hunting piece that would have belonged to someone from the very highest stratum of society.
16th or 17th century
Historical Collections of Gustavianum, B155
This sword is said to have belonged to Eric XIV. The inscription reads Soli Deo Gloria, which is Latin for To the Glory of God Alone.
Execution swords can be recognised by the fact that they have a straight rather than a pointed tip. Beheading by sword was considered a noble method of execution, unlike hanging, which was regarded as common and shameful.
Eric XIV in Prison
Unknown artist, late 18th century
Oil on canvas
Uppsala University Art Collections, UU 411
This portrait is an example of the kind of forgeries which the imaginative, historically interested Adolf Ludvig Stjerneld had in his collection in the late 18th century.
The painting is an 18th-century copy of an anonymous portrait of a prince from the 16th century. But by having bars painted into it, Stjerneld quickly transformed the picture into one of Eric XIV in jail – Rex Ericus in Carcere.
The frame is an important part of the work – with a chain coiled around the sheaf that was the symbol of the Vasa dynasty, and with an inset fragment of oak that is claimed to come from the bed King Eric was poisoned in at Örbyhus Castle in 1568.
The Severed Head of Erik Johansson Vasa
Lorens Pasch the Younger (1733–1805)
Oil on canvas
Uppsala University Art Collections, UU 266
Erik Johansson was the father of Gustav Vasa and was beheaded in the Stockholm Bloodbath of 1520. This painting shows his head on the pyre on which the Danish soldiers burned their victims.
The picture, though, is an invention of the late 18th century – a magnificent example of that period’s highly imaginative approach to history. It was donated to Uppsala University in the early 19th century by Adolf Ludvig Stjerneld. Historical authenticity was not something that concerned him.
Stjerneld’s collection of historical curiosities included a number of similar fabrications. The frame with the executioner’s axe was of course specially made for the painting.
Historical Collections of Gustavianum, UUISIT1394
The first commercially successful portable computer. It weighs 10.7 kilograms and has 64 kilobytes of memory. The world’s most-sold mobile phone, the Nokia 1110 from 2005, has 4 megabytes of memory – 64 times more than the Osborne 1.
The computer shown here was bought in the United States by Professor Roger Wäppling. When he took it through American customs, a surprised customs officer exclaimed: What the hell is that?!
Giroux Daguerreotype Camera
Historical Collections of Gustavianum, FK0551
The Giroux camera was made by Alphonse Giroux. The daguerreotype process was an amazing invention of the Frenchman Louis Jacques Mandé Daguerre and his partner Joseph Nicéphore Niépce. In 1837 they developed a method to fix the camera image without it being damaged by sunlight.
Now an exact impression of the image could be obtained; previously, motifs exposed through a lens had had to be traced by hand by artists.
The exposure time for a daguerreotype was 10–20 minutes. The camera in the display case is one of only twelve left in the world.