Skeppsbron 44, Stockholm Old Town

I love the Old Town’s denseness and richness of associations. Almost any fact or feature that you examine will lead to a fascinating chain.
Last week I was at a 50th birthday party at Skeppsbron 44, a building I’ve often passed with a cursory glance at its famous old restaurant Zum Franziskaner. But now I know that it was built in 1907 by the Jugend-inspired architect Fredric Dahlberg (whose work is also in Lärkstaden, a favourite area). The building has a justly praised staircase with window and wall paintings by Georg Pauli, of whom I knew nothing but want to learn more.
My focus at the party was, of course, on folk and not the building (you can get a bad reputation if you spend long periods at parties standing on the stairs staring at the ceiling…). But I will go back to see this as well as the Jugend details that I know are in the restaurant (I might have to eat there to see them, collateral profit rather than damage).

But I did get time to see the cuckold on the facade of the building (and to learn a new Swedish word “hanrej”, the Swedes like the Germans and Dutch choosing to describe cuckolds as castrated cocks, while the English went for “cuckold”, reputedly related to “cuckoo”).
The cuckold on the façade is a horned male face with an expression of pain and despair. According to the story when it rains, the water runs down the façade across the face and makes it appear to be weeping (I shall go there some time when it’s raining to check this). Under the face is a female sexual organ (how I hate the way that English voldemortises genitals and bodily functions, our only choice being medical overkill, tweeness or vulgarity…).
The story goes that the sculpture was intended as the cuckolded builder, Carl Smith’s revenge on his wife. I suspect this story may be apocryphal as I can’t quite see how it adds up – as an act of revenge, it rather seems to backfire on Carl, portraying himself in a wretched light and it seems unlikely to bring the errant wife dashing back to her hub’s side. But it’s an amusing detail which I’m pleased to know.

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