A year ago I showed some pictures of particularly cool finds that Claes Pettersson and his team from JÃ¶nkÃ¶ping County Museum had made in 17th century urban layers near their offices. One of them was the above clay mould depicting King Gustavus II Adolphus. Claes believes that it may have been used to make candy. Now he knows where the motif came from.
The mould is actually a contact copy of a 1631 royal medal used to decorate military officers. And among Claes’s finds is a piece of yet another mould copied from a coeval medal, this one an equestrian portrait. Muses Claes, “What have they been doing at JÃ¶nkÃ¶ping Castle in the early 1630s? Who is this person who lends his treasures, given by the King, to be used to make lowly clay moulds?”
I wonder if these clay copies may have been made by the sculptor during work with the medals, as a kind of backup copies? Or by someone who wanted to show the folks at home what the medals he had received looked like, without having to mail them the medals themselves.
The candy hypothesis was actually something meant for the newspapers! They wanted us to tell them that THE FIRST GUSTAVUS ADOLPHUS CAKES were actually made in JÃ¶nkÃ¶ping. But that tradition belongs to Gothenburg in Victorian times! So please don’t take our so called interpretation too seriously, because it was never meant to be!
And the moulds don’t have to be connected with counterfeiters. It was completely accepted to make copies of 17th century medals in cheaper materials. But what complicates the matter are these moulds themselves. Clearly not made for casting metals, being made of earthenware and having no raised edges, they should have been used for pressing the image onto something soft and plastic. Wax maybe? Or stucco? Some kind of foodstuff? Nobody knows.
So – if these moulds were used to make decorations; what is the historical context? In 1631 the Swedish army on the continent won a major victory in the battle of Breitenfeld. A year later, in november 1632, antother victory also claimed the life of the Gustavus Adolphus himself. Both these occasions must have been commemorated in the Castle of JÃ¶nkÃ¶ping, especially the later one.
It’s probably hard for us to imagine what it meant to the people of the early 17th century to have a King dying on a battlefield as a Champion of the True Faith …according to the propaganda of the day. My guess is that his picture was literally everywhere for months, maybe years to come. And that our two small moulds were used for decorations during the period of mourning.