Antique ideal

Classicism is characterised by aesthetic forms of expression that claim as their model the art, literature and architecture of Greek and Roman Antiquity. But every classicism constitutes its own universe. Every era and every place have seen in Antiquity what they themselves want to see, created a classical view of the past in their own image, or sometimes have not really cared so much about the past at all but simply chosen a few shapes and styles and created something of their own from these.

Compare the cool elegance of Sweden’s Gustavian furniture and manor houses with St Petersburg at the same time, its colourful pilaster facades and gilded furniture – a classicism that neither could nor wanted to shake of the carnivalesque excesses of the Rococo. In St Petersburg, Derzhavin sat writing passion-filled, energetically vibrating imitations of Horace, as far from the caustic restraint of Kellgren as Rastrelli is from Carl Fredrik Adelcrantz. The imposing Mitteleu...

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