Vendela Gustafva Sparre af Rossvik was a textile artist and a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Fine Arts.
Vendela Gustafva Sparre af Rossvik was born at Långdunkers manor in Hyltinge parish in the province of Södermanland. She lost her mother early on, when she was only twelve, and her father, Gabriel Sparre af Rossvik, moved the family to the country estate Axelsberg near Flen. The estate is now called Harpsund and is the Swedish prime minister’s country retreat, used i.e. for entertaining foreign dignitaries. The Sparre af Rossvik family belonged to the upper class in society and Vendela Gustafva Sparre af Rossvik was given the education that befitted her of which embroidery was an important part. Embroidered pictures were used to decorate the home and embroidery was also used to decorate clothes and accessories.
Vendela Gustafva Sparre af Rossvik participated in 1797 in an exhibition at the Royal Swedish Academy of Fine Arts with an embroidered picture of a landscape. This work and her skills in drawing led to her being elected that same year, at the age of 25, as a member. The Royal Swedish Academy of Fine Arts had been founded in 1735 with the aim of elevating Swedish arts and crafts to a European level. During the first period, there was no real structure for the professions so both women and men, professionals and amateurs alike, were welcome to exhibit their works at the academy’s public exhibitions. The participants could win recognition by being awarded medals for their works or else by being offered membership of the academy. During the period 1780–1796, four women were accepted for their embroidery, of whom one was Ulrika Melin.
As a member, the artist handed in some work as a test piece and Vendela Gustafva Sparre af Rossvik is represented in the academy’s collections by the work Flodlandskap from 1796. This work is a so-called ”print work” in which the motif has been embroidered with black and bone white silks on white or cream-coloured silk to imitate a graphic work. Flodlandskap shows four men with a boat beside some trees and rocks. In the background, water can be seen and on the other bank is a stately church surrounded by other buildings with a hill just glimpsed in the distance.
In 1801, Vendela Gustafva Sparre af Rossvik married Axel Oxenstierna af Eka och Lindö, 31 years older than she and Grand Master of the King’s Huntsmen. She settled down at Harg ironworks in the county of Uppland but the couple also had an apartment in central Stockholm. In 1802, their son Carl Gabriel was born. He was sickly and Vendela Gustafva Sparre af Rossvik had to spend most of her time at Harg with her son while her husband was in Stockholm. At the age of ten, Carl Gabriel fell gravely ill and was close to death, but he regained his health after two months.
After 15 years of marriage, Vendela Gustafva Sparre af Rossvik was widowed in 1816 and took over the running of the ironworks until her son reached his majority. At the works, pig iron was turned into bar iron.
Vendela Gustafva Sparre af Rossvik died in 1855. She was buried in the Oxenstierna family’s burial vault in Uppsala Cathedral, beside her husband.