The King’s Orphan: Drawings of an Early Swedish Explorer to California
June 25 – December 10, 2004
The exhibition features thirty-three drawings made between 1842 and 1843 by a Swedish explorer to California recording everything he saw for the benefit of king and country. The author of these works, known variously by the names of Sandels and Sundlelius, was the alleged illegitimate offspring of King Karl XIII and was educated at the expense of the Swedish crown before coming to America. The exhibition follows the travels of this self-described “physician, mining expert, and naturalist” as he recorded his observations of the new land and its people in vivid detail. These include views of towns, missions, and landscapes to rare early depictions of Native Americans, Mexicans, californios, and members of the animal kingdom.
The King’s Orphan drawings are among the most important treasures in the collection of The Society of California Pioneers. Executed at an age when the medium of photography was not yet available in California, the drawings represent a first impression of a remote and singular place captured with the wit and naiveté of a first-time visitor. The manuscript and drawings never returned to Sweden as had been intended for the edification of local scholars, but they are available for a limited time at The Society of California Pioneers where they offer a fascinating account of one man’s journey into the unknown.