The Chinese Pavilion: A history
Out on Drottningholm stands a hidden gem ornamented with dragon heads, which was originally a birthday present from King Adolf Fredrik to Queen Lovisa Ulrika. The Chinese Pavilion typifies Rococo style and the passion for chinoiserie that was all the rage in 18th century Europe.
Dragons, parrots and a dining room where the table rises up through the floor. There are plenty of exciting things to discover on the edge of Drottningholm Park. Here, surrounded by crisp chimes from brass bells and exuding exoticism, hides a true gem: the Chinese Pavilion, a birthday present to Queen Lovisa Ulrika from her husband, King Adolf Fredrik.
Dressed as a Chinese prince
This extravagant gift was handed over on 24 July 1753, the queen's 34th birthday, as the culmination of a day filled with festivities. In the evening, the king and the birthday girl wandered up towards the new pavilion, where the door opened and the seven-year-old Crown Prince Gustav (III) emerged dressed as a Chinese prince, carrying the golden keys on a red velvet cushion.
A favourite of the royal family
It is clear from a letter she wrote to her mother that Queen Lovisa Ulrika appreciated her gift:
"If I was surprised by the exterior, I was no less surprised by the interior. Everything bore witness to the generosity and good taste of the man who had arranged it all. (…) In the wings, tables had been laid. On one was a magnificent porcelain service from Dresden, and on the other an East Indian service. When we had inspected all these fine things, the king put on a Chinese ballet accompanied by Janissary music."
The pavilion soon became a favourite of the royal family and somewhere they could escape the hustle and bustle of Drottningholm Palace. The original building was demolished in 1763, as it had been attacked by 'fungus', and was replaced by a new one designed by architect Carl Fredrik Adelcrantz. The new Chinese Pavilion featured bold colours and rich ornamentation, including stucco dragons.
An exotic escape
The pavilion, which had been secretly built in prefabricated form in Stockholm and then transported to Drottningholm, elegantly combines the ideals of the Rococo era with the chinoiserie style that was fashionable in Europe at the time. The Chinese Pavilion was regarded as an exotic escape, where visitors encountered paradise-like depictions of Chinese life. The Red Room, the Embroidered Room, the Library and the Blue Salon are examples of exquisitely coloured rooms that are home to a wealth of Chinese craftsmanship, including porcelain, lacquerwork and silk.
Two red parrots
Next to the Chinese Pavilion are some smaller buildings, also in a Chinese style. One of these is the Volière, with two red parrots sitting in the tower. Another is Confidencen, a dining building where the dinner table and the serving table were set on the floor below, ready to be hoisted up to the dining room when the signal was given. This allowed diners to eat without serving staff, so that especially confidential discussions would not be heard.
Watercolour of the Chinese Pavilion by Louis Jean Desprez. Photo: Alexis Daflos