Inspired by the Dutch, the Swedish East India Company was founded in Gothenburg in 1731 for the purpose of establishing maritime trade with the East. The company successfully operated for 75 years, dispatching over 130 expeditions and supplying Swedish socialites with an abundance of teas, silks, spices, porcelains, and more. Chinese aesthetics and objets d’art became the height of luxury, and the prosperous reigns of the Qing dynasty sparked a national interest in the culture.
The country’s strong commercial links with Europe and the East allowed for new influences to be embraced, and this ethos promoted the development of art as part of the national culture. Many prominent Swedish aristocrats became patrons of Chinese art, acquiring historically and artistically significant works for their private collections. Over the years, many of the country’s art museums have benefited from this artistic focus, and now house world-famous collections of Chinese artifacts: the collections of King Gustavus II Adolphus and his daughter, Queen Kristina, now in the Far Eastern Museum in Stockholm; of Count Carl Gustav Wrangel, housed in the once private Skokloster Castle; Queen Lovisa Ulrica’s Chinese Pavilion, given to her as a birthday present in 1753, furnished with silks, lacquer ware, and porcelain; and in more recent history, the collection of King Gustaf VI Adolf of Sweden (1882-1973), which was exhibited at six museums in 1966 through the support of the International Exhibitions Foundation. It is with this heritage of Swedish patronage that this Private Collection from Durham, North Carolina takes shape.
In the early 1950s a young Swedish woman spent time traveling back and forth across the Atlantic—visiting and working in New York City, and returning home to Sweden. Having a keen eye toward design and form, she worked as a model and shop display designer at Bloomingdale’s in New York City. After a few years in Sweden, she and her new husband moved permanently to the United States, and the young Swedish couple started a medical practice.
Like so many of their fellow countrymen before them, they fell in love with art from the Far East– in particular, the luminescence of porcelain and exotic glaze colors. They sought advice and encouragement from a friend in their home country, who himself was an expert in Chinese art and aesthetics. They began collecting all kinds of Chinese porcelain beginning in the 1970s, purchasing from antique stores during their travels, and from auction houses—namely, Sotheby Parke Bernet in New York—evidenced by the stacks of sales catalogues and invoices in their home.
Purchasing from the best, their well-rounded collection highlights excellent examples of the material culture of porcelain, including Longquan celadon jars, hare’s fur tea bowls, blue and white from the Ming dynasty, and finely enameled porcelains from the glorious Qianlong reign.
Over the course of the following 30 years, the Swedish couple lived a private life in North Carolina, building their treasured collection of porcelain wares. With their combined love of art history, material culture, and her eye for design, the European couple amassed an extraordinary collection, spanning reigns and dynastic styles from the Tang dynasty to the Republic period, and Brunk Auctions is honored to offer this collection to the public.