[No: XXI | April 22, 2014 | By Viveka Hansen]
The life and manners of the Swedish people – including clothing and decorative textiles – were two of many areas interesting the artist and folklore researcher Nils Månsson Mandelgren (1813-1899). During many years he carried out well planned journeys of study, which resulted in a very extensive collection of almost 100.000 drawings, water-colours, photographs and written observations, today kept at the Folklivsarkivet (Folklore archives) in Lund, Sweden. This text aims to demonstrate a couple of his well-made illustrations, whose prime purposes were to record and preserve the knowledge of the country’s different local traditions.
To be a dedicated guardian of old traditions and carry on a collection of objects from the life and manners of the people during the period c. 1870-1930, were first and foremost performed by a group of well-to-do individuals whom did not had their roots in the farming society. For example: Sophie Adlersparre, Arthur Hazelius, Jacob Kulle, Lilli Zickerman, Emelie von Walterstorff and Henriette Coyet. Nils Månsson Mandelgren was on the other hand a prerunner to them and as well relating from a “simple home” in Ingelsträde village, Wäsby parish, Luggude district in Skåne. Both his parents died early and Nils was moved around to various relatives. In spite of these for a small child unsettling circumstances he was already at 8-10 years of age clear of the future occupation of his life. It was drawing and painting which were the boy’s vocations, and he started working with decorating greeting cards, furniture and household utensils for the farmer’s needs in the area.
By chance Mandelgren as a 17 year old met the count Gustav de la Gardie, who understood the young farmer boy’s aptitude for art. He therefore assisted the young man financially to receive a suitable art education including several years of studies in both Stockholm and Copenhagen. After the completion of his studies he was full of ideas: a stay abroad 1842-43, building and planning proposals in Stockholm, founding of a Sunday art school, documentation of mural church paintings, an atlas for Sweden’s history of farming and his main mission in life as travelling ethnographic researcher.
Already during the 1840s his documentation work was introduced, but it was foremost between the years 1862-91 as he made one systematical long journey every year. The geographical area for his research stretched across the whole country, from Lapland in the north to Skåne in the south. During the winter months in Stockholm he made fair copies of his field work, drew conclusions and planned the next year’s journey.
The most southerly landscape Skåne was close to his heart because it was his native place, as well as the area’s rich possibility for research about folk traditions from various angles made him return to the region. The local differences of the clothing for use during everyday life as well as for festivities, took considerable proportions in his material and resulted in a large number of sketches, water-colours and notations. This material also covered the decorative textiles from Skåne, which particularly was recognised by him during the period 1865-75. Among these, 7 water-colours and 2 photographs have been registered to be “rölakan” or double interlocked tapestries from the Mandelgren Collection, where several are depicted in this brief description of an important 19th century folklore researcher from a textile point of view.
– Hansen, Viveka, Textila Kuber och Blixtar – Rölakanets Konst och Kulturhistoria, pp. 189-192, 1992.
– Hansen, Viveka, ‘Mandelgrens intresse för textilier i Skåne’, Ale no. 2, pp. 13-23, 1998 (quotes in captions from N.M. Mandelgren are translated from Swedish into English).
– Folklivsarkivet, Lund (Folklore Archive in Lund).
PLEASE REFERENCE AS FOLLOWS:
– Hansen, Viveka, ‘Unique 19th Century Observations of Textiles and Clothing’, TEXTILIS (April 22, 2014); http://textilis.net/ (Accessed: Day/Month/Year)