THE HISTORY OF SWEDISH BIEDERMEIER
The evolution of Sweden furniture has always been influenced by the various design movements across Europe due to the nature in particular of the interaction between the monarchies of the nation states of Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries.
The creation of the Gustavian style for example was heavily influenced by the design ethos of Louis XVI at his lavish palace at Versailles in France.
The young future Swedish King Karl Gustav spent some of his teenage years at the court of the French Sun King and when he ascended to the Swedish throne he brought with him ideas and designs he had found in france and he had the Louis XVI rococo designs he had seen copied and adapted to the Swedish palette creating the famous Gustavian Style.
The Biedermeier period which followed in Sweden began around 1820 with the accession of an imported Frenchman to the throne of Sweden who became known as Karl Johan - the name by which this style and era of Biedermeier furniture is known in Sweden.
Influenced heavily by the French Empire furniture style of the period which drew on classical roman themes and also a little later drawing on the influences of the German Biedermeier movement, Swedish Biedermeier furniture is all about the use of local and imported show woods almost as a reaction to the painted furniture of the Gustavian period (1780-1820).
As with the its Gustavian predecessor, Swedish Biedermeier adapts the Empire/Biedermeier style to the simpler and more restrained Swedish design palette.
The shapes of Swedish Biedermeier designs are less angular and rigid than the German styles and mostly less ornate than those of the French Empire style (beloved of Napoleon) which is famous for its use of over the top gilt eagles, lavish cast brass adornments and general Romanesque bling.
Certainly the absolute top end antique Swedish biedermeir pieces can compete with any French Empire furniture for elaborate gildings and decoration but the overall feel of the Swedish style is less showy and more curvaceous while still retaining the stunning show woods.
There are 2 periods of Biedermeier to consider –
The original period 1820-1850 grew up in the shadow of the napoleonic wars that ravaged and destabilised Europe and the underlying neo classical design that were inspired by the aspirations of the competing empire states. This was more a thing for royalty and the upper classes – riches and excess and pride in national sentiment.
Then we come to what is known as 2nd Biedermeier covering 1860 to the early 1900s. This is more linked to the rise of the aspirant middle classes and business and it continued until it dovetailed first into arts and crafts (Jugent) in the early 1900s and then influenced the creation of Swedish Art Deco in the 1920s. You also find the early 1900s pieces start to be factory made (although on a small scale) rather than always created by individual artisans.
The 2nd period of biedermeier coincides with the expansion of the merchant classes in Sweden so to show off their newly found status, the burgeoning middle class would populate the formal rooms of their houses (like the salon where they received guests or the dining room) with the inlaid marquetry top dining tables and matching biedermeier chairs, curved sofas, tables and cabinets) : beautifully designed Biedermeier pieces that were slightly more restrained in style and colour – we also see the use of darker stains and figured mahoganies and darker woods as well as the ever present quilted and flamed golden birches.