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Fredrique Löwen
Born Johanna Fredrika (or Fredrica) Löf
October 1760
Sweden
Died 17 July 1813 (aged 52)
Sweden
Other name(s) Fredrica Löf, Jeanette Fredrique Löf, Fredrique Löven, Fredrika Löven, Mamsell Löven

Jeanette Fredrique Löwen (née Johanna Fredrika Löf) (October 1760 – 17 July 1813) was a Swedish actress, regarded as the greatest and most popular actress in Sweden of her time. She was the first female star at the newly founded national stage Royal Dramatic Theater, which was founded the same year she debuted.

Contents

Background

She was born Johanna Fredrika (or Fredrica) Löf as the eldest child of seven sisters and one brother to Johan Gottfrid Löf and Catharina Charlotta Stålhand. Her father was an employee of the royal court, responsible for the silver-wear and the valuables of the royal tables, and she was baptised in the presence of a large number of the aristocracy. It was common for actors during this age, especially female actors, to use stage names, as the profession was not considered to be entirely proper, and Johanna Fredrika called herself by the French version of her name, as French was then fashionable, and took her fathers original name (he was first named Löwe or Löwen, and changed his name to Löf) and created the stage name Jeanette Fredrique Löwen (or Löven). Commonly, she was often called Fredrika Löven or Fredrica Löf. The use of stage names was not as common in Sweden as it was in France, but Fredrika was to be educated in the French Theatre in Stockholm.

She had a favoured position thanks to her fathers connections; two of her seven sisters married noblemen, and her career had great support from the upper classes. Before her career, she, despite of the fact that her father was an employee and not a nobleman, had a somewhat dubious place in high society as a celebrated "compliant" beauty, and had her first illegitimate child in 1779, but she did not like to be compared to actresses with a reputation for being courtisans; there was an incident when she found her box at the Opera occupied by the actor Madame Rémy, née Götz who had such a reputation.

Debut

Fredrika Löf, as many other Swedish actors, was educated by the French actor Jacques Marie Boutet de Monvel as a student in the French Theatre in Bollhuset, where she probably performed in smaller parts, like other Swedish students, such as Lars Hjortsberg did. she was employed at the Swedish Theatre in Bollhuset by Fredric Ristell in 1787 and made her grand debut in 6 May 1788, where she played the part of Siri Brahe in the play "Siri Brahe and Johan Gyllenstierna" written by king Gustav III of Sweden, and she immediately made a great success with her "Greek beauty" (probably meaning Classical), her soft and clear voice and her great charm of personality. She was made premier-actress directly after her debute in 1788 and celebrated her grand years during the regency in 1792–1796.

When the director of the theatre, Adolph Fredric Ristell shortly after went bankrupt and fled the country to escape his creditors, Fredrika formed a company with the other actors and asked for the protection of the king; he made the theatre "Royal Dramatic Theatre", became their boss and put the theatre under the authority of the Royal Swedish Academy of Art, which made them his employees and obligated to perform in the private royal stages when summoned, which made Fredrika somewhat of a court-actress. The theatre was ruled by votings in board meetings every fourteenth day, and the actors ruled the theatre in this way for fifteen years, until 1803; Fredrika could therefore be considered joint director.

It seems that Fredrika Löf suffered from the condition of Dyslexia; the academy-member Gustav Mauritz Armfelt wrote to the king in 1788 and asked if someone else could perform the part of Siri Brahe and recommended the actress Gertrud Elisabeth Forsselius Haeffner instead of Fredrika Löf, officially because of Fredrikas health, but the actual fact was that Fredrika Löf "Could not read texts, but had to learn her parts by having others read them to her", and added that the writer Carl Gustav af Leopold had to spend three hours with her to teach her the part because of this. Having spent her childhood in a quite privileged environment at the royal court as the protégée of the nobility, it not considered likely that she never learned to read and write; since 1686, it was compulsory to learn to read in Sweden. Her condition is not confirmed, but she continued to have others read her parts for her during her career.

Career

Fredrique Löwen or Mamsell Löwen became one of the most popular and celebrated Swedish actresses of her generation together with Maria Franck and Caroline Halle-Müller. she was also known to have performed singing parts occasionally. She excelled in temperamental dramatic parts such as Semiramis by Voltaire, Athalie by Racine, Queen Christina of Sweden by Gustav III, in plays by August von Kotzebue, Racine, Voltaire and Favart, and as Susanna in The Marriage of Figaro by Beaumarchais.

On 30 June 1791, she did the part of Amalia in Den okände eller världsförakt och ånger (The unknown or worldcontempt and regret) by Kotzebue, which was a great success for her: she was said to have performed the part with "a sensitivity beyond limits" which made "everyone cry"; even the actresses from the French Theatre, who did not understand the language.

Fredrika Löf had her part to fill among hee colleagues in this pioneer-troupe of the newly founded Royal Dramatic Theatre; while Maria Franck and Sofia Frodelius performed tragedy and comedy respectively and Ebba Morman took care of the "demonic" female parts such as witches and murderers, Fredrika Löf played the romantic parts of mistress and heroine, parts for which she was recommended for at least until 1801. She was also widely recommended by various critics for her elegance and good sense of costume.

Private life and family

She also made a social success with her charm and made scandal with her personal love life - among her lovers where the Swedish Sculptor Johan Tobias Sergel and the poet and journalist Johan Henric Kellgren. She never married, but she had three children, two daughters and a son; her daughter, Jeanette Fredrique Fredrisen (1779–1854) married the opera singer Carl Magnus Craelius, singing master and teacher of Jenny Lind, and Fredrika Theresia Fredrisen (1780–1864) married major Anders Andersson (1767–1818) and the tenant farmer Jonas Peter Rundlöf (1787–1861). She also had a son, Johan Davidson, who became a sailor in 1802.

She was given a high salary of §600 from the king's Opera, in addition to her salary at the Theatre, resided elegantly at Gustav Adolfs torg, Stockholm and had her own carriage to take her to and from the theatre. In her home, she held a salon for the cultural elite, frequented by Carl Michael Bellman, Tobias Sergel and Louis Masreliez and her colleagues, though, just as the later salon of Emilie Högquist, not by female members of the aristocracy because of her reputation as a courtesan.

Her sister Euphrosyne Löf (1772–1828) also had a celebrated (but shorter) career as an actress after her debut in 1791, and they both made scandal with their love-life; it was said that "The sisters Löf had enough for everyone" - but this did nothing to damage their careers or popularity. It has sometimes been suggested that one of the fathers of her daughter's was Prince Frederick Adolf of Sweden, but it has never been confirmed that they had a relationship, only that the prince and her sister had one. Euphrosyne Löf became the official mistress of the Prince after Sophie Hagman in 1795.

During her last years on stage, she became fat and lost her beauty and was caricatured by the papers. Fredrika Löf retired from the stage in 1809 and died four years later. According to the memoirs of one of her colleagues, Johan Fredrik Wikström (husband of Charlotta Eriksson), she "died of some sort of disorder in the brain in about the age of fifty". This has later sometimes been interpreted, that she had become insane, but it could also have been a physical disease, such as for example a brain-tumour.

See also

References

  • Carin Österberg: Svenska Kvinnor; föregångare, nyskapare (Swedish Women; predecessors, pioneers) (1990) (Swedish)
  • Alf Henriksson: Fram till Nybroplan (Toward Nybroplan) (Swedish)
  • [1] (Swedish) (Swedish)
  • Ingvar Andersson: Gustavianskt (The Gustavian Age)(Swedish)
  • Svenskt Biografiskt Lexikon, 1926–1936 års utgåva, SBN.(Swedish)
  • Carl Forsstrand: "Sophie Hagman och hennes samtida" (Sophie Hagman and her contemporarys)(Swedish)
  • Georg Nordensvan: "Svensk teater och Svenska skådespelare från Gustav III till våra dagar. Första bandet 1772–1842" (Swedish theatre and Swedish actors, from Gustav III to our days. First Book 1772–1842) (Swedish)
  • Örnberg: "Svenska ättartavlor" (Swedish lineages) (Swedish)
  • Gidlunds förlag: "Ny svensk teaterhistoria. Teater före 1800" (New Swedish theatre history. Theathre before 1800) (Swedish)
  • Johan Flodmark: Stenborgska skådebanorna (The Stenborg stages) (Swedish)
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