New acquisitions: Count Fabian Wrede’s mirror from the 1690s

By on April 23, 2018

Nationalmuseum has acquired a mirror that is an example of the finest that was prepared in sumptuous baroque in Sweden. The mirror has a richly carved and gilded frame with built-in engraved glass. The provence is unusually well documented, even back to the order in the 1690s.

Client was Count Fabian Wrede (1641-1712), a senior officer with Karl XI’s full confidence. After a career as a governor in Viborg County, he participated in preparation for the reduction in 1680. Wrede was a land marshal at the 1682s parliament. Then the holder of a number of outstanding office. One of Wrede’s hobbyhorses was to drive business in a more mercantilistic direction. Soon he was raised to Count and became one of Sweden’s richest men. Politically, however, it went worse since he tried to argue against Karl XII for a more defensive attitude in war policy. In 1711, Wrede was forced to resign from almost all the offices.

The mirror that Wrede ordered is large, all 195 centimeters and has a rich carved and gilded frame with bandwork, akantus, cornucopia, grape vine and flowers. The frame contains recessed glass with decor of strewn flowers. In the mirror’s edge there is a safely hand-grafted weapon for the clan Wrede. It is not signed but can be attributed to Burchard Precht (1651-1738). He was the most important sculptor of the time, and therefore received many royal and church assignments, often in collaboration with the castle architect Nicodemus Tessin d y. Precht was born in Bremen and was educated in Hamburg before arriving in Stockholm in the 1670s. In his workshop sculpted furniture, table frames and funeral weapons for the court and nobility were performed. Most of the evidence suggests that he could grind and foil glass. Therefore, Precht is considered the first Swedish mirror maker. High quality flat glass for mirrors could not be manufactured in the country without being imported.

It was a challenge to artificially engrave the glass. The technology had been revived in Europe in the early 1600s and became a sought after knowledge. To Stockholm, single graves came for shorter periods in the 1650-80s. With Kristoffer Elstermann’s arrival in the 1690s, engraving art became a continuous feature of Swedish glass art. The first time Elstermann can be traced in the accounts is 1691 when he makes an order for widower Queen Hedvig Eleonora to the new castle church at the castle Three Crowns. He worked in his own workshop and subsequently performed the work for Kungsholm’s glass mill. Elstermann skillfully engraved different subjects that were well adapted to the actual surface and the shape of the object. For the Swedish engraving art, he had great significance until his death in 1721. During that time, the quality of the engraved glass from Kungsholm’s glass mill was at its highest.

The large mirror’s engraved panels in the frame have the same type of strewn flowers that were used on the glass from Kungsholm’s glass mill, but the flowers are here more freely positioned than later was the case on the objects of glassware. The noble weapon on the edge is made with a safety found on Elstermann’s work. It is therefore highly likely that the glasses are engraved by Kristoffer Elstermann.

Buchard Precht’s mirror production also became increasingly rational over time. Molded frames of tin replaced sculpted wood and the engraved decor of the glass frame were painted instead with white paint. Traces of this simplification have not yet appeared on this mirror. These characteristics make the mirror dating back to the 1690s.

The role of the buyer for the appearance of the mirror should not be underestimated. Count’s close relation to the court and the latest trends such as Prechts carved and gilded furniture and the new debut technique with engraved glass has affected. Wrede had financial resources to order a mirror and his interest in trade was signaled by the cornucopia of the mirror’s edge. Count’s mercantilist thinking should also have helped him to see that the mirror was produced as much as possible in Sweden.

The unusually well documented provenance has written evidence from the client Count Fabian Wrede via his daughter Sophia, who brought the mirror 1707 to the marriage of Erik Axelsson Sparre. Then it has been inherited until our time.

Nationalmuseum’s purchase of the mirror has been made possible through Axel Hirsch’s donation funds. The National Museum has no own means of acquiring arts and crafts for collections enriched by gifts and private foundation and funds.

Helena Olofsson, Culture & Music | Stockholm