Skänninge, Sweden

“Rothman family at their home in Skänninge, Sweden,” 1880s, by Carl Curman, via Swedish National Heritage Board Commons on flickr.

The photo shows Anders Nicolaus Rothman (who was town mayor) and his wife, Maria Charlotta (sister of the photographer), on the right. Their children are standing in the center. Notice the conch shells bordering the grass.

You can click on the picture to enlarge it.

The Sunday porch: Valdres, Norway

tonsasen-sanatorium-porch-ca-1890-by-carl-curman-valdres-norway-swedish-heritage-boardWomen on a veranda at Tonsåsen Sanatorium (the woman on the left is wearing a traditional costume similar to the one in this photo), Valdres, Norway, ca. 1890, by Carl Curman, via Swedish National Heritage Board Commons on flickr (all three photos).

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Tonsåsen Sanatorium was established for the treatment of tuberculosis in 1881 — the same year that the bacillus causing the disease* was identified by Robert Koch. Like similar facilities, just about the only treatment it could offer was a combination of nutritious food, rest, and plenty of fresh air. However, it also had thermal baths, and the photographer, Carl Curman, was a physician, specializing in the science of health baths (balneology).

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Even at the better sanatoriums, fifty percent of patients were dying within five years in 1916. It was only after the development of antibiotics after World War II that it was possible to treat and cure TB reliably. Tonsåsen closed in the 1960s.


*TB was proven to be communicable in 1869.

Life in gardens: after lunch

Västra Götaland, Lysekil, Lysekil, Bohuslän, Övrigt-Sällskapsliv“Three women, Lysekil, Sweden,” 1880s, a cyanotype by Carl Curmanvia Swedish National Heritage Board Commons on flickr.

The woman at the top of the picture is Calla Curman, wife of the photographer.

For more images like this one, check out one of my favorite blogs, It’s About Time, which is currently posting a series, “Summer Women” — beautiful mostly 19th century paintings of women and children in the garden.

Life in gardens: travelers

Alahambra, Spain, 1878, Swedish Natl Heritage BoardThe Alhambra, Granada, Spain, 1878, by Carl Curman, via Swedish National Heritage Board Commons on flickr.

The cyanotype shows the photographer’s wife, Calla, either sketching or reading during a visit to the Court of the Lions.  She was 28 at the time and just married to Curman. This may have been their honeymoon trip.

The Alhambra fortress/palace was built primarily in the 13th and 14th centuries by the Muslim Nasrid dynasty of southern Spain. After the Christian Conquest in 1492, it became the royal residence of Ferdinand and Isabella and, later, their grandson, Charles V. However, by the 18th century the site was derelict and largely abandoned.

In 1829, the American writer Washington Irving stayed in the Alhambra for three months and then turned his impressions into the romantic Tales of the Alhambra.

“The peculiar charm of this old dreamy palace,” he wrote, “is its power of calling up vague reveries and picturings of the past, and thus clothing naked realities with the illusions of the memory and the imagination.”

The book was popular, “the exotic was in vogue,” and cultured travelers — Calla was the daughter of a wealthy industrialist — began to visit the ruins in increasing numbers. Restoration work — often controversial — soon followed.  Today, the old complex is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

About 30 years after Carl and Calla’s trip, their son also visited the Court of the Lions and took the picture below.Alhambra, 1910, Tekniska museetGroup of tourists in the Court of the Lions,  ca. 1910, by Sigurd Curman, via Tekniska museet (Stockholm) Commons on flickr.

In the 14th century, the area around the fountain was a little lower than the walkways and planted in flowers, giving a tapestry or carpet effect.  Today, as in the photo above, the space is entirely covered in dry pebbles to preserve the building’s foundation.

I am the garden appearing every morning with adorned beauty; contemplate my beauty and you will be penetrated with understanding.

— Ibn Zamrak, from a poem on the wall of the Hall of the Two Sisters in the Alhambra.

Life in gardens: family and friends

Västra Götaland, Lysekil, Lysekil, Bohuslän, Övrigt-Sällskapsliv

Människor som sitter i en trädgård” (people sitting in a garden), Lysekil, Sweden, ca. 1890, a cyanotype by Carl Curman, via Swedish National Heritage Board Commons on flickr.

Carl Curman was a physician, specializing in the science of health baths (balneology).  He also became a prominent amateur photographer, leaving behind a collection of about 700 photos.  He lived with his wife, Calla (possibly the first person on the left above), and their children in Stockholm and, during the summers, in the seaside town of Lyskil.

The group above may be in an outdoor cafe of the park in Lyskil, rather than in a private garden. The spot looks very much like the one in this photo by Curman.