The Swedish National Portrait Gallery
Gripsholm Castle is home to the world's oldest national portrait gallery. This is also one of the world's largest portrait galleries, and currently includes approximately 5,000 works, mostly oil paintings.
The first portrait seen by visitors at Gripsholm Castle is John-Erik Franzén's famous painting of our current royal family. King Carl XVI Gustaf is depicted together with Queen Silvia and their three children in 1984-85.
King Gustav Vasa lays the groundwork
The groundwork for this art collection was laid as far back as the 16th century, during the reign of King Gustav Vasa. The king had artworks brought to the newly built Gripsholm Castle, and the 1548 inventory lists 98 paintings at the castle, of which 23 were portraits.
Galleries of contemporary rulers
Unfortunately, most of these works can no longer be identified. King Gustav Vasa's youngest son, King Karl IX, arranged the Hall of State as a gallery of his father's contemporary rulers, commissioning portraits of Gustav Vasa and other European rulers of the time.
However, the paintings that we now see in the Hall of State are not the originals – they are 17th century copies. Gripsholm Castle also has another gallery of contemporaries, the White Salon, created by King Gustav III in the 1770s. This includes Alexander Roslin's portrait of King Gustav III in his coronation attire, signed 1777.
Hedvig Eleonora's collection
During the second half of the 17th century, Gripsholm Castle was owned by a woman with a keen interest in art: Queen Dowager Hedvig Eleonora, who had become the widow of King Karl X Gustav at the age of 24.
She added around 200 portraits to the collection, most of which depict her relatives. Examples include a series of portraits of children, showing those of her siblings who died in their infancy. Some of these paintings are displayed in Hedvig Eleonora's Apartments on the ground floor of the castle. One of these – a painting of Gustav (IV) Adolf as a young boy, playing on a hobby horse – can be seen to the right. The artist was Carl Fredrik von Breda.
The collection becomes the National Portrait Gallery
The collection officially became the National Portrait Gallery in 1822, when King Karl XIV Johan made Adolf Ludvig Stjerneld responsible for the paintings. During Stjerneld's time, the collection grew to include no fewer than 1,500 works by the end of his life.
It was also during this period that some of the most famous portraits were added to the collection, such as Johan Pasch's Hen Picture, which portrays the ladies of Queen Lovisa Ulrika's court. The painting can be seen below to the right.
The National Museum adds 2,000 paintings
In the 1860s, the National Museum took over responsibility for the Swedish State Portrait Collection. Since then, the collection has grown by more than 2,000 works from different periods.
A lack of exhibition space led to the modern portraits being temporarily moved to Gripsholm Folk High School in 1947, but they returned to the castle in 1987.
20th century portraits include paintings of Anna Behle by Maj Bring from 1908, the Swedish film star and actress Greta Garbo by Einar Nermans, Dag Hammarskjöld by Ben Shahn from 1962, and Marianne Lindberg De Geer's expressive portrait of Carlo Derkert from 1988.
New portraits every year
The collection is added to every year with a number of works, including the Portrait of Honour – a painting of a deserving Swedish woman or man – donated by the Gripsholm Association.
This year's Portrait of Honour is one of almost a hundred to have been presented to the State Portrait Collection. Previous donations include portraits of Mora-Nisse, Alice Babs, Ingmar Bergman, Birgit Nilsson, Alva Myrdal and Benny Andersson.
In 2013, a new portrait of Queen Silvia was donated to the Swedish State Portrait Collection.
Top image, photo: Lisa Raihle Rehbäck/Royalpalaces.se
The paintings have been photographed by the National Museum.