Carl Johan Cronstedt in Paris (1732-35)

Carl Johan Cronstedt (1709-1777), well known for the redesigning of the wooden stove that had significant social and economic consequences throughout Sweden (i), is still overshadowed by contemporaries such as Carl-Gustaf Tessin and Carl Hårleman. This is because his less spectacular personality and work has attracted few studies (ii). Today preliminary appraisal of C.J. Cronstedt as a collector, architect and scientist (iii) seems to confirm that his role in the Swedish history of building has been understated. As intendent and superintendent of the Royal buildings (1733-53), director of the Academy of Drawing (1753-1767) and member of the Academy of Science, he was actively involved in the debate on construction technologies and there is a great deal to suggest that C. J. Cronstedt had a broad practical and theoretical impact on engineering and architecture in Sweden.
Analysis of Cronstedt’s education, contacts and purchases in Paris during his one trip abroad depicts a very rational, serious and ambitious young man. Reading and transcribing a hitherto unpublished source consisting of one hundred of drafts for the letters he wrote during this study trip (iv) and analysis of notes, drawings and books in his library (v) not only offers better understanding of his personality and collections, but also new insights into an architect’s education during the first half of the 18th century.
A member of a rich and cultivated family, C.J. Cronstedt spent most of his childhood with his cousin Augustin Ehrensvärd (vi) at Fullerö Manor (close to Västerås), where they had free access to his father’s library.(vii) We do not know how or when Cronstedt’s interest in architecture arose, but in 1729, at the age of 20, Cronstedt and Eherensvärd spent one year studying at Stjärnsund, the factory of the Swedish inventor C. Polhem. (viii) In the following year Cronstedt became the apprentice of Hårleman, the Royal superintendent, with whom he quickly formed a close relationship. Thus, when Carl Hårleman was preparing a trip to Paris to recruit new artists for the building the Royal Palace he took Cronstedt with him.
They left Stockholm in December 1731 for a two-month journey on bad roads and in bad weather to arrive finally in Paris on February 13th 1732. In May the same year Hårleman signed several contracts (ix) with French artists, and at the beginning of June he left the city accompanied by two painters (G-T. Taraval and N. Delavié) and five sculptors (A. Bellet, R-P. David, N. Leger, M. Lelièvre and C. Ruste). Cronstedt remained in Paris for three and a half years to study architecture, keep Hårleman up to date on the artistic life and to supplement his father’s library.
A serious and enterprising young man, Cronstedt quickly gained entry to the higher circles of Parisian social life and succeeded in gaining access to the Royal Court, even meeting the king and the queen (x). Through the purchases for his father he also entered the world of private collectors in Paris, so beginning his own collection of books, drawings and engravings about architecture, engineering and the decorative arts. With about 5000 drawings now in the Nationalmuseum and a library at Fullerö manor, it is today one of the most complete and well preserved of its kind in Europe.
In the letters to his father, Carl Johan stresses the importance of his Parisian journey. In February 1735 he thanks his father for letting him stay until the spring, but tell him that he would appreciate being able to leave in the autumn:

“qui est une saison encore plus propre pour aller en Italie, si vous jugez à propos de me donner la permission de faire ce voyage ; je ne puis vous en donner d’autre raisons que celle-ci ; savoir, que mon cher père ne peut pas prétendre que je puisse savoir au bout de trois ans
tout ce que mr Hårleman a eu bien de la peine à apprendre pendant les cinq ans qu’il a été ici pour la première fois, sans compter tout ce qu’il déjà a pu apprendre de l’architecture et du dessein avant que de sortir de chez nous, ce qui lui a été d’un grand secours au lieu que je ne savois presque rien ou pour mieux dire rien du tout quand j’arrivai ici” (xi).

In fact Cronstedt’s journey abroad was paid for by his father and he therefore sent home regular and more or less detailed accounts of his expenditure, so that today we can estimate his costs and trace his doings. In August 1732 he assesses that he spent 2900 livres, including about 500 livres for purchases on behalf of his parents, during his first six months in Paris, which corresponds to about 400 livres per month. Without including the purchase of clothes and the collections, the cost of living during 42 months rises to about 14 600 to 17 000 livres – then the price of an ordinary house in Paris.

Education and professional contacts in Paris
Cronstedt regularly mentions “mon maître” or “mon architecte” without giving his name ; however several details in the correspondence states that his “main” masters in Paris were Claude III Audran (1657-1734) and Jean Michel Chevotet (1698-1772).
According to the contracts signed by Hårleman in May 1732, he lodged « à Paris au grand hôtel de Suède rue de Tournon », as in April Cronstedt wrote to his father that he had lodgings with a master of architecture and explained to his mother that “... I’m lodged in the backyard of the Luxemburg, at the castle intendent’sxii house /.../ who lives with his niece who is widow and takes care of the house, I both eat and live at his house for a yearly fee of 900 livres. I’ve been too fortunate to meet amiable and helpful hosts, with whom I hope to live well, and this without speaking French that I am, for the best of reasons, willing to learn. As soon as I’m with him I talk as well as I can and when I talk /.../ he corrects me and tells me what to say, for all this I have to thank Hårleman.”(xiii) It is already known that Cronstedt had unsuccessfully attempted to recruit Audran, and that it was Audran who recommended Taraval to Hårleman in 1732. It is also well known that during the summer of 1734 Cronstedt bought the inheritance of Claude III Audran : about 4000 drawings and 40 thick rolls of sketches; a very costly purchase for which Cronstedt needed his father’s permission and which he obtained with the assistance of C-G. Tessin and C. Hårleman. At the beginning of August 1734 he tells C.G. Tessin that he alone had first option and even time to reflect before buying this collection (xiv) of drawings and later informs his father “… me sont extrêmement nécessaires, et surtout dans une pais comme la nostre, où on ne peut pas trover des choses d’une de si grande utilité, ni pour de l’argent et encore moins en exécution”xv. How this young Swede could have such contacts might be explained by his strong bands with the Audran family since the time spent in their house. In October 1732 he was, for example, already invited to a the wedding of a tapestry master in Paris, a date that corresponds to Michel Audran’s marriage with Marguerite Chambonnet (xvi).
Cronstedt also give reports on Chevotet’s earlier works (xvii) and several details testify to the close relationship between them. Beside announcing Chevotet’s membership of the Royal Academy after the death of Claude Desgots in 1732, Cronstedt writes about a funeral monument (a marble coffin) for Charles XII of Sweden that Chevotet was supposed to work on but which he had not yet started because he was directing building work in Metz and not far from Paris (January 1733). In the same year Cronstedt was working in the countryside with his architect. They were both lodged until 1734 at the Luxemburg Palace, after the death of Audran, when Chevotet moved (to rue Bouloi) Cronstedt gave two new addresses to his mother: first “rue de Tournon vis à vis l’hôtel de Mr Villars Brancas” then he tells her that he could live at his host’s or his architect’s houses at the same time. In addition to this, the sale of Chevotet’s estate in March 1773 lists “deux volumes in-folio reliés avec 276 vues de la Suède”(xviii), most probably Suecia antiqua et hodierna, quite a rare book in Paris and one which Cronstedt had several times asked his father’s permission to give it to his host/master.
The letters also displays Cronstedts practical and theoretical instruction. In June 1732 Carl Johan works with his “masters” three times a week in the afternoon, and he explains that he has free time to practice and learn architecture from 6 am to lunch time and nearly every afternoon. Six months later he is spending his time “drawing, reading different books and learning everything relating to his profession”. Notes in volumes in his library show that only three days after his arrival in Paris he bought S. Le Clercs Traité d’architecture (for 18 livres) and six days later both volumes of Davilers Cours d’architecture (for 25 livres). The library at Fullerö retains several sheets and two manuscripts with notes and transcriptions of two unpublished lectures given by Antoine Desgodets at the Royal Academy of Architecture in the 1720s (xix).
In Paris C.J. Cronstedt also took private lessons in French, Italian, music, song, dance, perspective and stone cutting. These two last topics are important for our study. In December 1732 he explains that he quit his master of music to study perspective instead, “...parce que je trouve que cela m’est plus utile et même plus nécessaire”, an apprenticeship that he followed until May 1733. Several books in the library display interest in this skill, for example La perspective pratique nécessaire à tous peintres, graveurs, sculpteurs, architectes, orfévres, brodeurs tapissiers et autres se servant du dessin by “un Parisien Religieux de la compagnie de Jésus” (1647) (xx) ; and several sheets with drawings might correspond more precisely to his practical training. A list sent to his father in June 1733 also detail the drawing tools he bought in Paris for about 66 livres: a silver compass, a sun clock in silver, two pencil wallets, a tape measure in a holster and four rulers. These were used in his apprenticeship and also to carry out one of his official missions: to send drawings and descriptions to Hårleman. In several letters he lists his tasks, gives answers to questions about carriage doors, provides descriptions and comments on accompanying drawings. After meeting the superintendent of the Royal buildings, le duc d’Antin in July 1734, he gained free access to the Royal castles and gardens. Several sheets of drawings, seven sketchbooks and lists with sites “that I need drawings from” testify to Cronstedt’s in-situ studies of master-works from the 17th century but also contain details of major contemporary mansions in Paris and chateaux in its surroundings. Chevotet was an excellent draughtsman and contributed illustrations to Versailles imortalisé (1720), Le grand escalier de Versailles (1725), Histoire de la ville de Paris by Dom Félibien and Lobineau (1725), Architecture Française by Mariette, (4th volume published in 1737xxi) and Histoire de l’hôtel Royal des Invalides by Granet (1736). It is possible that Cronstedt took part in the making of engravings for these two later works. In fact a comparison of Chevotet’s illustrations of the Invalides and one of Cronstedts’ sketch-books entitled Invalides shows many similarities with details in Chevotet’s engravings with measurements (roofs and cellars for example) and a brief text on the last page of this sketchbook even gives the number of steps at the Invalides. Four sheets of notes still at Fullerö also show that Cronstedt made a detailed study of Le Jeune de Boulencourt’s Description generale de l’Hostel Royal des Invalides from 1683 (also in his library), listing all the enclosures in the institution with measurements from the cellars to the garret. Thus Cronstedt had gained good insight into one of the major monuments from the time of Louis XIV that had still no been completed in 1730.
Beside these more traditional studies, in November 1733 Cronstedt started to practice stone cutting, an apprenticeship that he reckoned would take at least three months “if I work every day from lunch to midday”, but as the book of letters from 1734 is missing we cannot establish this. According to a contract drawn up by his architect, the master was supposed to teach him everything about this skill for a fee of 200 livres: in November he made models in plaster and stone every afternoon and in December he was learning stone cutting intensively. This apprenticeship may even have included theoretical study, as the library contains a manuscript entitled Traité de la coupe des pierres by Mr de La Rue (xxii) and also François Derand’s L’architecture des voûtes (1643). Unpublished and exceptional documents referring to a smaller mansion in the faubourg Saint-Germain also lead us think that Cronstedt might have been working as a director and/or stone cutter on this building site. A sketch book entitled maison Dugas, a sheet listing the prices of the different works and nine drawings concern this house constructed on a plot of land at the corner of the de Grenelle and Hillerin Bertin streets, which is represented on the Bretezmap from 1738. It corresponds to plot 10 in the Censive de l’Université from 1753, when it still belonged to a M. Dugas. The architect may have been Pierre Bosery (xxiii), a close friend of Taraval, who collaborated with his father, the master mason Charles Bosery, and constructed several buildings in this area in the 1720s and 1730s (thus Bosery the older may have been Cronstedt’s master). Even if many European noblemen came to Paris to complete their education, it may still seem exceptional for a nobleman to undertake such comprehensive studies, involving not only architectural theory but also the practice of stone-cutting!

Purchases and contacts
C.J. Cronstedts third assignment in Paris was to purchase works for his father’s library and the shipments he sent to Sweden from Rouen also included books, engravings, lead models and marble for Hårleman. A list of the books acquired for Jacob Cronstedt was regularly updated with new titles in his correspondence. Most letters show how he was proceeding in his searches for sometimes very rare editions that (according to Carl Johan) specialists had been seeking for about thirty years and which required approaches to private collectors, antiquarians and booksellers in Paris. In order to avoid being cheated he got advice from “his” antiquarian and always asked some monks to come with him, probably from the Saint-Germain des Près abbey, where he he had found a good advisor in Dom Bernard de Montfaucon (1655-1741), who is regularly mentioned in the letters. The two first met in April 1732 when Cronstedt was received by the monk, who he describes as a man of about 70, but very kind and in good shape, “walled in by books and papers”, who showed him many of the Monuments presented in his antiquitée expliquée (xxiv).
Most of the letters to J. Cronstedt include reports on editions for sale (quality, year, price etc.) and purchases either made or about to be concluded. Early purchases of books for himself on architecture, mentioned above, are not included in a first list of books (L’architecture by Palladio, Ordonnance des colonnes by Perrault, Le traité de mathématique by Bion and La méthode générale pour tracer des courbes rampantes de bois) sent by Cronstedt to Sweden with books for his father in September 1732. At Fullerö a list of Livres et estampes qui traitent en général de l’architecture, a Catalogue des catalogues with sales taking place in Paris (mainly from 1729 to 1735) as well as lists of librarians with their addresses and interesting items for sale also indicate systematic searches for opportunities to add to his own collection as numerous provenances.
In August 1733, he gave Suecia antiqua et hodierna and Thessaurus (xxvii), in a leather binding
to the Royal Library, and recounts with pride “ils m’ont fait mettre mon nom dans les deux livres afin que l’on se souvienne avec le temps par qui ils ont été données” and that the librarians were so satisfied that they promised to tell the cardinal and Mr de Maurepas about his gift. Six months earlier he had requested these volumes from his father and said that the librarians were willing to exchange them for other books. This exchange is not confirmed, but the gift might then have been part of a deal or strategy to obtain the twenty-three volumes of Le cabinet du Roi that the garde des sceaux (G. L. Chauvelin) promised him during a private discussion in May 1733. Several times Cronstedt tells his parents that he hoped soon to acquire this work – and how he went regularly to Versailles to hasten the procedure. In April 1735 this was finally accomplished and he describes twenty three relatively finely bound leather volumes and a gilt-edged catalogue that is still at Fullerö today.
If it is well known that major elements derive from the Audran collection and we can now also indicate a second major source. In July 1735 Cronstedt bought original drawings and different documents on architecture and fountains “dans une inventaire qui se fait actuellement, chez un homme fort curieux de belles choses, et qui en a hérité une grande quantité d’un fort habile homme nommé Watteau” (xxv), at a total cost of 184 livres 15 sols. This appears to be the inheritance of sub-deacon P. M. Haranger (xxvi) to whom Watteau donated (at his death in 1721) a collection of drawings then valued at over 6000 livres. The inventory of Haranger’s inheritance contains hundreds of drawings, engravings and several books on architecture and gardening.

The results of this first study show that the time Cronstedt spent abroad is a key period of his life in which he acquired sound training and established important relationships for the future. Beside his interest in the Royal Court, he also gained entry to the world of architects in Paris. In November 1734 he tell his mother how while his architect was working in the countryside he was able to meet and make good contacts with other architects (such as Sylvaid Cartaud and Contant d'Ivray) nd this had made his architect jealous. On February 6th 1735, after presenting a project for a public square, he was elected a member of La Société des Arts et Sciences à Paris (xxviii) as was Anders Celsius in May of the same year. In fact these two Swedes spent time together in Paris, Cronstedt mentions “Professor Celsius” in several letters and they probably met the same people. In addition he writes about the patronage of count Clermont, the membership of the architects Chevotet and De Vigny, and that the 80 members also included (among many others) the engineer Bélidor and the abbot De la Grive. Even if Cronstedt did not meet all these men, his membership must have facilitated access to their works (xxix). As he was very curious about sciences of all kinds he must also have met other intellectuals and scientists in Paris.
In June 1735 Cronstedt prepared for his departure from Paris by shipping seven boxes of books and objets d’art to Sweden from Rouen. On September 15th he wrote to his mother from Lyon, where he spent about two weeks before travelling further through Nimes and Marseilles to Genoa where he arrived on October 24th. He then travelled on to Rome one month later, with recommendations from the duc d’Antin to the director of the French Academy. His next letter, written in Strasbourg, is dated February 25th 1737 and in it he talks about travelling through Mannheim, Frankfurt and Cassel, and at the beginning of September 1737 he writes again from Berlin, “the most beautiful city that he ever had seen” that he was going to Strålsund and then on to Jönköping in Sweden.


i With F. Wrede in 1767.
ii Å. Stavenow, Svensk Biografi, 1929. G. Selling, « C.J. Cronstedt Hårlemans elev och kakelugnens konstruktör» i Svenska herrgårdshem på 1700-talet, 1937. C-D. Moselius « Arkitekturritningar, planer och teckningar ur Carl Johan Cronstedts Fullerösamling » in Nationalmuseums utställningskatalog, 1942. « Carl Johan och F.A.U. Cronstedts samlingar på det gamla Fullerö», Nationalmuseums utställningskatalog 1944. Dessins du Nationalmuseum de Stockholm : collections Tessin et Cronstedt. I, Claude III Audran (1658-1734). II, Dessins d'architecture et d'ornements, Paris 1950. R. Strandberg, « La Réception de Carl Johan Cronstedt à la Société des Arts et des Sciences à Paris », Konsthistorisk tidskrift, 31, 1962. M. Nisser: Några drag i 1700-talets svenska stadsplaneringskonst. En undersökning företagen i samband med Carl Johan Cronstedts plan till Kaskö,
Stockholm 1964, Byggnad teknisk debatt och utbildning i Sverige under 1600- och 1700-talen, thesis, KTH, 1966 and « Stadsplanering i det svenska riket, 1700-1809 » in Sju uppsatser i Svensk arkitekturhistoria, Uppsala 1970. H. Degand, Monuments antérieurs à la Renaissance dans les dessins de la collection Cronstedt, 1986, Master’s degree thesis, Université Paris-I. R-M. Söderström, Kakelugnar på Klapperup, Krapperups museum, nr 10, 1991 and Tre 1700-talsmiljöer, Lund 1993.
More recently E. Vikström analyzed how Cronstedt established the workings of the superintendency through the control of different kinds of drawings (forthcoming study) and A. Bortolozzi actually studies the Italian drawings and books in Cronstedt’s collections.
iii As part of a broader research study, our investigation has been made possible thanks to financial help from: the Helge Ax:son Johnson Foundation, the Sven och Dagmar Salén Foundation and the Ivar and Anders Tengbom Foundation.
iv Three notebooks containing draft letter written by Cronstedt in Paris 1732, 1733 and 1735 (the book from 1734 is unfortunately missing), Riksarkivet (E 3447) and photographs of letters sent to his mother (including those from 1734) at Uppsala University Library (G 28 m). All the letters to his mother are written in Swedish, as from December 12, 1732 those to his father are in French.
v Still property of the Cronstedt family. This study has been possible thanks to the friendly interest of Nilla and Carl Johan Cronstedt, who allowed me to study this incredible material (with A. Bortolozzi). vi A. Ehrensvärd (1710-1772) military architect and a lieutenant colonel in the artillery.
vii The owner of a library comprising about 4000 books (today part of the Library in Uppsala), his father Jacob Cronstedt is counted among the greatest bibliophiles in Swedish history.
viii The notebooks from this year are today deposited at Tekniska museet in Stockholm.
ix Paris, Archives Nationales, Min. Cent. ét. CXVIII, 373. M. Rambaud, Documents du minutier central concernant l’histoire de l’art (1700-1750), Paris, 1955.
x RA E 3447, letter to his mother Oct. 24th 1732.
xi RA E 3447, N° 32 to his father, Feb. 14th 1735. His father would have preferred him to accompany Anders Celsius on his trip to England.
xii Claude III Audran “acted from 1704 until his death thirty years later, as Comptroller of the historic Luxembourg Palace with its priceless collections. He lived on the premises, where he had a studio with
workrooms for his numerous pupils” C.D. Moselius in Gazette des Beaux-Arts, vol. XXVIII, Oct. 1945, p. 240.
xiii RA E 3447, April 4th 1732.
xiv Published by Moselius in Nationalmuseum’s exhibition catalogue no. 79, p. 84-85, 1942
xv RA, E 3447, N° 31 (January 1735).
xvi Concluded on September 18th 1732 (Revue de l’Art Ancien et Moderne, nouvelles archives VIII, 1891, p. 95.) M. Audran was a tapestry contractor to the Gobelins and Cronstedt writes about the wedding of an “entrepreneur öfwer kongliga tapetmåleriet här i Paris”, Chevotet witnessed the contract (Chevalier 1970).
xvii The only study on Chevotet is the one by B. Chevalier and there are very few sources about his career before 1735. Jean-Michel Chevotet (1698-1772) : Architecte du Roi et de son Académie d'Architecture, Master’s degree thesis, 1971, 2 vol. Chevotet-Contant-Chaussard : un cabinet d'architectes au siècle des Lumières, DAAVP, J-L. Baritou and D. Foussard. According to M. Gallet (Les architectes parisiens du XVIIIe siècle, dictionnaire biographique et critique, éd. Mengès, Paris, 1995, p. 123-126) he may have been the student of G. Boffrand or R. de Cotte, and Le Blond in 1722.
xviii N° 40. Transcribed by B. Chevalier in the annexes to his master’s degree thesis (op. cit. 1970).
xix Both Chevotet and Hårleman attended Desgodetz’s lectures in the earlier 1720s.
xx And also J. Cousin, Livre de Perspective (1560), D. Barbaro, La Pratica della perspettiva (1569), E. Danti, Le due Regole della prospettiva pratica (1644), J. F. Niceron, La Perspective curieuse (1663) and A. Pozzo, Prospettiva (1723).
xxi According to Chevalier (op. Cit. 1970) some of the illustrations are at the Nationalmuseum and on May 6th 1733 Cronstedt writes I will buy « un livre relié en 3 tomes in fol qui contient les estampes de toutes les maisons qui sont baties à Paris, qui me coutera 160 lt ». xxii Parts of a manuscript or a copy of Jean-Baptiste De la Rue, Traité De La Coupe Des Pierres, Ou Méthode Facile Et Abrégée Pour Se Perfectionner En Cette Science. Suivi De : Petit Traité De Stéréotomie Appliqué A L'Usage De La Coupe Des Pierres, published in 1728, 1738, 1764 and in facsimile in 1977, Librairie des Arts et métiers. C.J. Cronstedt’s own catalogue also lists one volume of this book, the edition from 1738.
xxiii M. Gallet (Les architectes parisiens du XVIIIe siècle, dictionnaire biographique et critique, éd. Mengès, Paris, 1995, p. 80-81, they constructed several houses in the fbg Saint-Germain. He was also a close friend of Taraval whom he visited in Stockholm during the summer of 1734.
xxivRA E 3447. L’antiquité expliquée, 10 vol. 1719, 5 vol. 1724. Les Monumens de la monarchie françoise, 4 vol. 1729-1733.
xxvRA E 3447. N° 33 to his mother (July 14, 1735): jag har och den ähran att skicka upsats pa de ritningar och böcker som iag kiöpt uti ett inventarium som är salt för 8 dagar sedan eftter en mycket habil man och hoppas iag att det ej är emot min nadiga herfaders wilja; ty det är ritningar uti orginaler och alla handa saker som finnes uti architecturen. According to Moselius the Louis Le Vau drawings might come from this collection.
xxvi J. Baticle, « Inventaire après décès du chanoine Haranger, 17 mai 1735 » in Revue de l’Art, 1985, n° 69, p. 62-68. A l'enseigne de Gersaint: Edme-François Gersaint, marchand d'art sur le Pont Notre-Dame, 1694-1750, G. Glorieux and D. Roche, Ed. Champ Vallon, 2002, 585 p. Inventory of Haranger’s belongings (Arch. Nat. Min. Cent. ét. LVI, 58, May 17, 1735) cited p. 430.
xxvii In March 1735 also he met a bookseller willing to exchange twelve volumes of Suecia antiqua et hodierna for books on architecture, engravings such as some books from father’s catalogue and money for the rest. Just before leaving Paris he received ten volumes from his father in a very bad condition (as the ship had been wrecked in Rouen), that , with the help of the best engravers in the city, he took apart to salvage eight or nine. He exchanged these for books for the father and for himself (such as three books on Roman architecture and drawings of architecture) RA E 3447.
xxviii The web-site http://www. gives the history and bibliography of this quite unknown society (thanks to R. Carvais for this information). In the Cronstedtcollection at the Nationalmuseum there is a list of their members (CC 3459) and sketches for his project (CC, P3/K9) published and analyzed by R. Strandberg (op. cit. 1962). In 1737 Cronstedt also became member of the Academy of Arts in Florence.
xxix His library contains « Mémoire sur le laminage sur plomb » by Mr Remond de la Société des Arts, Paris 1731.

Digitaliserat C.J. Cronstedt material