Frederika wears the colours of the newly-founded Vadstena adliga Jungfrustift, a secular order of nuns that was intended to provide for unmarried female nobles...
Thanks to a faded and barely-legible inscription on the reverse of this miniature, its sitter has recently been identified as Fredrika Charlotta Insenstierna. Born in 1757, Fredrika was the daughter of Fredrik Ulrik Insenstierna, a senior official at the court of the Swedish king, Fredrik I (1676-1751). Fredrik Ulrik had begun his career by serving as the head of the household of the Crown Prince Adolf Fredrik, who later succeeded Fredrik I as king. From this, he ascended to positions of ever-increasing seniority in the administration of the royal court, before eventually attaining the illustrious role of Hofmarskalk, making him one of the highest-ranking figures within the court. His duties involved the organisation of the many spectacular court ceremonials and entertainments, including dances and banquets. It was a position of considerable stature and was one for which he must have been rewarded handsomely, as is attested by the stout double chin that can be seen on his portrait by Gustaf Lundberg in the Nationalmuseum, Stockholm, which was made at around the same time as the present miniature. Indeed, given that both portraits were executed around 1761 – the year in which Fredrik was made Hofmarskalk – it does not seem unlikely that they might have been commissioned to commemorate his appointment to the post. As well as his highly-coveted function at court, Fredrik also served as the governor of Västmanland Province.
Fredrika Charlotta is shown in a grand and imposing setting that alludes to the prestigious nature of the role that her father performed at court. She stands in a vast, marmoreal architectural space from which a swathe of delicately damasked drapery falls behind her, which is echoed in the folds of the shawl that seems to be in the process of slipping off her right shoulder. Despite her young age – Fredrika was likely no older than five years old when the likeness was made – the sitter has a commanding demeanour. This is, however, mitigated by the delicacy of the palette such as can be seen in the blues of Fredrika’s dress; these are carefully echoed in the frills of her sleeve and neckline, in her bracelet and also in the ribbon that she wears in her hair.
The prominence in the blues of the sitter’s dress is not likely to have been coincidental as light blue and white – the colours of the sash that Fredrika wears – were the colours of the newly-founded Vadstena adliga Jungfrustift, an order of which the young Fredrika seems to have been an early member, as is indicated by the sash and order that she wears. Founded in 1747, when it first began to accept members, it was a secular order of nuns that was intended to provide for unmarried female nobles. Patronage of the Jungfrustift by Princess Luisa Ulrika – the wife of future king Adolf Fredrik – and the injection of funds that it promised inspired the founders of the nunnery to noble dreams for its future. Teachers were acquired for the boarding school that was to be housed in the disused Vadstena Castle (also noted on the reverse of the miniature and possibly the setting for the portrait) and further ambitious plans were formulated. Disappointingly for Luisa Ulrika – by now queen – sufficient funds for an endowment were never raised and in 1758 she relinquished her patronage for the project. Nevertheless, the project continued in the guise of a fund to provide for unmarried daughters of nobles on the condition that they never married so long as they were receiving its support. Fredrika Charlotta never did marry and died aged fifty-four in 1811.