Carl Fredrik Sundvall – Studies in Rome 1788-1791


Svenska Institutet i Rom
Via Omero 14

Data evento
24 October 2023

Despite growing up under relatively bleak conditions Carl Fredrik Sundvall (1754-1831) managed to pursue a career as an architect, much thanks to his uncle Carl Fredric Adelcrantz (1716-1796). Holding the position of superintendent and president of the Royal Academy of Arts, Adelcrantz was one of the leading architects in Sweden at the time. As a student and apprentice of Adelcrantz, Sundvall undertook a solid and traditional training eventually culminating in an educational travel to France and Italy with the intention of refining his knowledge and skills by exposing him to the latest trends in Paris and the antiquities of the Roman empire. After five years of studies in Paris, Sundvall moved to Rome in 1788 where he stayed for three years before returning to Sweden in 1791. The years in Paris were mainly financed by Adelcrantz, while a sanctioned salary from the king Gustav III (1746-1792) allowed Sundvall to complete his education in Rome.
Although not officially participating in the training at the French Academy, Sundvall befriended Jacques Charles Bonnard (1765–1818), the then current holder of Grand Prix de Rome. Few letters from Sundvall’s time in Rome remains. Therefore, the similarities between the education of the French architects and Sundvall can be traced to the great number of drawings and sketchbooks that has survived from the years in Paris and Rome. Apart from his association with several members of the French Academy in Rome, Sundvall also studied alongside his fellow countrymen including painters, sculptors and engravers.

Shortly after his return to Stockholm, Sundvall’s career took an unexpected turn due to the assassination of Gustav III in March 1792. Despite being one of the most well-educated architects at the time, Sundvall received remarkably few commissions throughout the rest of his life. Nonetheless he was still an active member of both The Royal Swedish Academy of Fine Arts and The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, publishing an essay in the latter titled About the usefulness of the ancient style in the art of building, especially for Sweden (1821).
The seminar presentation will examine Sundvall’s studies in Rome through his drawings and the written sources, discussing the impact the stay had on his further career, including both unfinished and completed projects such as Stjernsund Palace and Carolina Rediviva (the main building of Uppsala University Library). Another topic of exploration will be how the architect’s period of scholarly residence in Rome, as expounded upon in the above mentioned essay, profoundly shaped his theoretical comprehension.