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The Fürstenberg Triptych:

Rococo, Renaissance, Contemporary Art

“Thanks to Fürstenberg, I could work in peace, without life’s worries and without concern for my daily bread.” Carl Larsson

When Pontus and Göthilda Fürstenberg wanted to decorate the staircase in the gallery’s new building, they turned to Carl Larsson. He was, at that time, head of the Valand Art College but “after a little grumbling” was granted permission to travel to Paris, with his wife Karin, to paint the new works there, all financed by the Fürstenbergs, of course. Larsson chose to create a triptych depicting three epochs within art: the rococo, the renaissance and contemporary art. The paintings were shown at the World’s Fair in Paris in 1889, where they won the first class medal.

The room inspired by Carl Larsson’s triptych has been designed to cater for both large and small groups. A movable wall can also be used to divide it into two smaller group rooms. It can be used as an anteroom for mingling and activities taking place in the adjacent Fürstenberg Gallery. In addition to the three major art epochs, this room contains traces of the Larsson home in Sundborn, which became iconic in its own right and an interior design ideal for many. It was there, after all, where Karin Larsson developed her own artistry and talent for handicrafts. Her furniture, fabrics and patterns were influenced by art nouveau, traditional neoclassicism and functional work in the home. The watchwords were beautiful and amusing, as well as comfortable and functional. Out with the dark interiors of the middle classes – in with open, cheerful colours. Something that makes itself felt in this room at the top of the old Fürstenberg Palace.

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The three large imprints from art history with “Renaissance,” “Rococo” and “Contemporary Art” were Carl Larsson’s second commission in the field of monumental painting and became a milestone in his oeuvre. Larsson himself felt that it was then that he had truly become an artist.

“Rococo” was composed in undulating, asymmetrical shapes, similar to Carl Larsson’s own light style at this time. All the details of the picture were intended to capture longing and love of nature: the romantic game between the shepherdess and the man, the rippling pond, the dolphin, the flowers and the passing clouds, and the mischievous cupids. “Rococo” was originally far more erotically charged. Pontus Fürstenberg thought that the shepherdess’s raised skirt would attract glances and Larsson was forced to paint over this section, adding a garland of flowers.

In “Renaissance”, the rebirth of antiquity was personified by a woman “half in marble, half alive”. She is awoken from a lengthy slumber by an artist gently kissing her shoulder. Sitting on an antique sarcophagus, she is received with reverence by a kneeling king and pope. At the edges stand the citizens, gazing devoutly up at Renaissance, ready to employ the new art and architecture.

In “Contemporary Art”, Carl Larsson was free to paint whatever he associated with his time. It was an era of industrialisation and optimism associated with development and the upcoming World’s Fair and the Eiffel Tower, which was under construction at the time. But it was also a time for free painting, the free artist and the contemporary art market – now with merchants and wholesalers as patrons instead of the church and royal court. “Contemporary Art” is illustrated by a female statue and Carl Larsson himself as both a sculptor and outdoor painter. In the background the construction of the Eiffel Tower and the Asian influences on the art of this period are reflected by Larsson’s Japanese onlooker standing next to the easel. A top hat sits on a chair. If you look closely, you can see the initials “P.F.” inside, a tribute to patron Pontus Fürstenberg, to whom Carl Larsson owed so much.

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