This fascinating photo comes from the final act of the life of Carl Gustaf Hellqvist, one of Sweden’s most important artists of the late 19th century. Hellqvist painted historical scenes with a very romantic bent (I’ve featured some pictures in the same category from Norway). Though trained in Stockholm, Hellqvist moved to Munich in 1879 where he maintained this studio, though he and his wife went back and forth between Munich and Paris. Unfortunately his career was cut short by some sort of neurological illness–he suffered from severe headaches–which ultimately killed him in 1890 at age 38. This photo was taken as he was dying and his studio and its artifacts sold off to help pay his bills.
What’s interesting about this picture is that there is more history than art in it. I don’t see palettes, paints or canvases, or the stereotypical half-draped Grecian nudes as you often think of seeing in an artist’s studio. Indeed Hellqvist seems to have been a prodigious collector of historical knickknacks. In this photo I see a knight’s helmet that looks like something out of Braveheart, several pieces of plate armor probably from the 16th century, what looks like a Spanish conquistador’s helmet, and numerous religious artifacts including jeweled crosses and various items of a medieval/Early Modern church nature. Who knows if it’s genuine, but it didn’t need to be for an artist’s purposes. All of this stuff fits well with the kind of thing Hellqvist painted, such as “The Death of Sten Sture the Younger on the Ice of Lake Mälaren, 1520.” Romantic depictions of the past, especially the past before industrialization and modernization, were huge in popular culture of the late 19th century. Many artists made their living depicting subjects such as these.
“The Death of Sten Sture the Younger” is typical of Hellqvist’s paintings.
I have no idea what might have happened to this room in later years, but it’s safe to say that Hellqvist’s collection was scattered to the winds in the years after his death. This photo has survived in the Nationalmuseum in Stockholm as a testament to one of Sweden’s most gifted painters of the period.