Duke Karl's Chamber
In Duke Karl's Chamber at Gripsholm Castle, time has stood still. This is the castle's only fully preserved room from the Vasa period, and is one of the oldest Renaissance interiors in Sweden. See the room digitally in 360°.
The décor is virtually untouched since the chamber was created for Gustav Vasa's youngest son in the 1570s. The room was originally a defence room, located on the ground floor of the Prison Tower. This can be seen from a spiral staircase – originally intended for the castle's military personnel – which has now been blocked up, but which ran from the cellar to one side of the bedchamber and then on the other side of the bedchamber further up through the tower wall.
DIGITAL TOUR OF DUKE KARL'S CHAMBER
See the room from every angle. Don't forget to look up! Click on the link below or on the top image.
The semi-circular tower room has a fireplace, a deep alcove for a bed, window recesses with wall-mounted benches, and a privet – a private room for toilet visits. The room represents an early Scandinavian interpretation of the European High Renaissance.
"The best preserved colour, the blue, is produced using the semi-precious stone lapis lazuli."
The ceilings and walls of the chamber are covered with myriad figures, with hardly any of the surface being left completely undecorated. On the white plastered ceiling, thin, brown vines with leaves and flowers wind in rhythmic swirls. All these vines are actually based quite geometrically on four points: small blue amphoras that seem to balance on the top of the panel, and from openwork baskets in bright yellow. The vines converge around a wooden knob in the shape of a bunch of grapes at the centre of the ceiling. The pigments in the decorative colours on the plaster surfaces have faded considerably over time, with the red tones having oxidised and darkened, the greens having turned brown and the bright yellow being barely visible. Appropriately enough, the best preserved colour – the blue – also contains the most expensive pigment: lapis lazuli, produced using the semi-precious stone lapis, which came to Europe from central Asia.
"… looks towards a stylish world"
The interior design of this small bedchamber at Gripsholm shows early serious attempts to look towards a stylish world. The wall panelling in the chamber shows a new feature of Swedish interior design at the time: Renaissance arcades, arches and pilasters. These architectural elements draw inspiration from classical temple architecture, and speak strongly to the idea of the Renaissance: a rebirth of ancient ideals. Painted human figures, floral arrangements and bunches of fruit can be seen on the walls of the arcades. It is likely that the visual elements refer to fables and the wealth of tales from the ancient world.
"Gott Ist Mein Trost"
(God is my comfort)
To the right of the central window, two coats of arms are depicted on the panelling. The one on the left shows the Swedish national coat of arms – three crowns, the territorial arms and the Göta lion – and the three provincial coats of arms of Karl's duchies: the griffin of Södermanland, the roses and crossed arrows of Närke and the eagle of Värmland. In the inescutcheon at the centre is a corn sheaf, Karl's family emblem. Above the coat of arms, the gilded letters G, I, M and T are fully legible. This should be read as the initial letters of the words that make up the Duke's motto – Gott Ist Mein Trost ('God is my comfort' in German) and the initials C D, the Latin abbreviation for Carolus Dux (Duke Karl). The coat of arms on the right was intended to be that of his consort, the duchess, but there are no initials and the inescutcheon, where her family coat of arms should be, is empty. From this we can conclude that the decoration dates from before 1579 when Karl married his first consort, Maria of Pfalz. The duke was therefore unmarried when he had his bedchamber here.
Top image: Duke Karl's chamber at Gripsholm Castle is one of Sweden's best-preserved interiors from the time of the House of Vasa. Photo: Kate Gabor/Royalpalaces.se