Sigvard Bernadotte - the designer formally known as Prince
The Swedish designer who worked for Georg Jensen lost his royal titles when he married a commoner
Our 15th March C20th Art & Design auction includes several silver pieces by Georg Jensen and his designers. One of these artists was Sigvard Oscar Frederick Bernadotte, who until 1934 was known as Prince Sigvard of Sweden, Duke of Uppland, and was the second son of the future King Gustav VI Adolf of Sweden.
Sigvard was born in 1907 at Drottningholm Palace into the Bernadotte dynasty, who had held the Swedish throne since 1818. He was a great-grandson of Queen Victoria, uncle to Queen Margrethe II of Denmark (who has recently abdicated), and Queen Anne-Marie of Greece (until the abolition of the Greek monarchy in 1973).
However, Sigvard's life would turn out to be more industrial than imperial.
He was drawn to the arts at a young age and studied art history at Uppsala University before earning a degree at the Stockholm Academy of Fine Arts. After spending time in America working in theatrical design and the film industry, Sigvard turned his attention to industrial design and the production of functional yet beautiful things.
Around the year 1930 he began to design silverware for Georg Jensen, who had already gained renown as a successful silversmith and was expanding with stores in Berlin, New York and London. Sigvard brought a more functional geometric style to Jensen and became particularly known for his flatware; several of his pieces are in New York's Metropolitan Museum.
At about the same time, Sigvard met Erika Maria Patzek, the daughter of a German businessman, and definitely not royal. In 1934, two years before his cousin Edward VIII of England scandalised British society with a similar act, Sigvard Bernadotte married Erika and was stripped of his royal titles: Prince Sigvard became Mr. Bernadotte. This 'unequal match' disqualified Sigvard from the line of succession.
Sadly, the marriage ended in divorce ten years later, and Sigvard went on to marry twice more - both 'commoners'.
Sigvard's career was equally varied. After leaving Georg Jensen he established Scandinavia's first industrial design practice with Acton Bjørn, designed for Bang & Olafson, Nilsjohan, Facit, Rosenthal, France & Sons and many others.
In 1951, Grand Duchess Charlotte (then head of state of Luxembourg) admitted Sigvard and his immediate family into the nobility with the title 'Count of Wisborg'. Wrangling with the Swedish royal house over his princely titles continued for the remainder of Sigvard's life. However, upon his death in 2002, his gravestone at the Royal Cemetery, which is owned by the king, does make it clear that he was "born Prince of Sweden".
The two pieces by Sigvard in our 15th March auction beautifully typify his style, being the 'Magnolia' serving spoon above and footed bowl below. The auction also includes several items of Georg Jensen jewellery (top). The catalogue will be available from the end of February.