BOY, Willem
(b. ca. 1520, Mechelen, d. 1592, Stockholm)

Tomb of Gustav I Vasa and his Consorts

Red and white alabaster, 277 x 136 cm
Cathedral, Uppsala

King Gustav Vasa, the founder of the Vasa Dynasty and unifier of Sweden in the 16th century, is buried in the chapel behind the main altar. Uppsala Cathedral is the burial site for other members of the royal family and many famous Swedes. Nearly a decade before his death, the King had expressed a wish to be buried in the cathedral. He is buried with his three wives, although only two are depicted on the sarcophagus designed by Willem Boy. The king and his wives are interred in what was once the Chapel of the Virgin Mary.

Boy is thought to have returned from Sweden to Flanders to spend six years working on the sarcophagus of Gustav Vasa and his two first consorts Catherine and Margaret. In 1571 he was finally able to send the statues of the king and his wives to Sweden. In 1572 he went to England to buy marble and alabaster for the rest of the monument. However, in 1567 he had borrowed 1.000 daler for the project and when the bond proprietor in Antwerp was informed the statues happened to be in the city, she presented the bonds to the city magistrates and, as the defendant failed to present himself, the statues were confiscated.

When Boy was informed of the situation he immediately managed to have the repayment postponed and wrote a letter to the Swedish monarch who happened to be in Kalmar. The infuriated king wrote a letter to the Duke of Alba to have the monument sent to Sweden. Furthermore, to ensure Dutch merchants in Sweden would support his cause, he threatened to free them from their favoured position and demanded that they produce a security at least equal to the value of the monument. The Dutch magistrates eventually backed down and Boy was given a respite. The sarcophagus was safely delivered to Uppsala in 1583.

The main volume in red marble measures 2.77x2x1.36 m with pillars on the corners 1.68 m tall. The statues are made of white marble with crowns and sceptres in gilded bronze.