17th-Century Swedish Military Fashion: The Story Behind Captain Jöran Polman’s Portrait

Georg-Günther Kraill von Bemeberg’s Portraits of Military Officers

Officer portraits painted by Georg-Günther Kraill von Bemeberg in 1623 and 1624 provide us with glimpses into Swedish military fashion during the reign of King Gustav II Adolf (1594 – 1632). These officer portraits, housed at Skokloster Castle, reveal the early baroque fashion which favoured playful and flowery dress with a fondness for lace, bows, ribbons, and rosettes — even among the men. At the time of the Thirty Years’ War, European fashion was increasingly influenced by France, with more elegant and sophisticated clothing.1“Kleidermode Zur Zeit Des Dreißigjährigen Krieges.” DeWiki. Accessed March 13, 2023. https://dewiki.de/Lexikon/Kleidermode_zur_Zeit_des_Drei%C3%9Figj%C3%A4hrigen_Krieges.

There was a prior emphasis on tall and slender looks; however, the silhouette in the 1620s to 1650s became rounder and broader, which was achieved by high-waisted robes, wide cuts, and large masses of fabric. It wasn’t uncommon for gentlemen to wear a lot of lace, bows and ribbons. The fashion was defined by a high-waisted doublet with wide laps and a wide skirt, and very wide, knee-length bloomers and decorated with embroidery, which fell in loose folds around the thigh. Trousers were often tied with a bow at the knee. They wore high-heeled shoes decorated with roses. Finally, the outfit was completed by a sword worn on a wide bandolier with the officer holding a cane with a large slouch hat. Among the Swedes, the hat was decorated with red and white ostrich feathers.2Olegova, Fedosya. “3. Костюмы 1600 – 1640 Гг. в Музейных Коллекциях.” Хозяйка. Accessed March 13, 2023. http://premudrosti.in/index.php/kings-in-stockings/costumes-from-1600-to-1640/.

Captain Jörgen Polman’s Portrait

Portrait of Jörgen Pålman by Georg Günther Kraill von Bemeberg
Georg Günther Kraill von Bemeberg, Portrait of Jörgen or Jöran Pålman (Polman), 1623, tempera on canvas, Skoklosters slott, 2254

Inscription at top left: CAPITIN JORGEN POLMAN NATVS ANNO 1597 FECIT ANNO
1623″.

One of the officer portraits that capture the essence of Swedish military fashion during the 17th century is the painting of Jörgen or Jöran Polman in 1623 when he became the captain of Kronoberg’s regiment. That same year, Jöran married Christina Lilliesparre of Fylleskog. In 1629, he was promoted to chief quartermaster and eventually held the rank of major.

The painting of Jöran is noteworthy because it is complemented by a cossack (note his dangling right sleeve in the background of the painting) with an eight-piece peplum. At the time, it was fashionable to decorate the peplum with bows, but we do not see them here due to the orientation of the painting. However, the artist depicted the bows that tie Jöran Polman’s pants with red silk stockings.3Olegova, Fedosya. “3. Костюмы 1600 – 1640 Гг. в Музейных Коллекциях.” Хозяйка. Accessed March 13, 2023. http://premudrosti.in/index.php/kings-in-stockings/costumes-from-1600-to-1640/. This portrait is also notable because we can see the original Polman coat of arms in the upper right corner, depicting an arm holding a ring.

From 1620 to 1650, a trend emerged in which men’s hair grew longer, cascading down to their collar. Wavy and curly hair also became fashionable, particularly after 1630. Some men sported a long strand or two at the nape of their neck, which they could braid or embellish with a bow. This hairstyle was referred to as “cadenettes,” named after Marshal Cadenet. Additionally, some men grew a slightly twisted moustache or short goatee, as can be seen in Jöran’s portrait.4“Kleidermode Zur Zeit Des Dreißigjährigen Krieges.” DeWiki. Accessed March 13, 2023. https://dewiki.de/Lexikon/Kleidermode_zur_Zeit_des_Drei%C3%9Figj%C3%A4hrigen_Krieges.

Georg-Günther Kraill’s officer portraits are a valuable resource for historians, providing insights into the influences of Swedish costume in the 17th century. Browse the entire collection of officer portraits here.

Footnotes
  • 1
    “Kleidermode Zur Zeit Des Dreißigjährigen Krieges.” DeWiki. Accessed March 13, 2023. https://dewiki.de/Lexikon/Kleidermode_zur_Zeit_des_Drei%C3%9Figj%C3%A4hrigen_Krieges.
  • 2
    Olegova, Fedosya. “3. Костюмы 1600 – 1640 Гг. в Музейных Коллекциях.” Хозяйка. Accessed March 13, 2023. http://premudrosti.in/index.php/kings-in-stockings/costumes-from-1600-to-1640/.
  • 3
    Olegova, Fedosya. “3. Костюмы 1600 – 1640 Гг. в Музейных Коллекциях.” Хозяйка. Accessed March 13, 2023. http://premudrosti.in/index.php/kings-in-stockings/costumes-from-1600-to-1640/.
  • 4
    “Kleidermode Zur Zeit Des Dreißigjährigen Krieges.” DeWiki. Accessed March 13, 2023. https://dewiki.de/Lexikon/Kleidermode_zur_Zeit_des_Drei%C3%9Figj%C3%A4hrigen_Krieges.
Jake Peterson
Jake Peterson

Jake’s greatest dream is to reveal stories that have been buried in history. He does this through rigorous research and combing through archives to preserve precious stories for future generations. Jake has qualifications in narrative therapy and family studies, and is an author, family historian, and researcher. In 2022, he published his first book “Arcadia.” Follow Jake on Instagram @polmanarkivet.

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