Jacopo Bassano, Virgin and Child with John the Baptist and St Anthony the Abbot, c. 1560–65, oil on canvas, 108cm x 130cm Ester and Jalo Sihtola Fine Arts Foundation Donation, Finnish National Gallery / Sinebrychoff Art Museum Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Matti Janas

A Renaissance Masterpiece in the Sinebrychoff Art Museum – Virgin and Child with John the Baptist and St Anthony the Abbot, by Jacopo Bassano

Kirsi Eskelinen, PhD, Museum Director, Finnish National Gallery / Sinebrychoff Art Museum

Preface

Virgin and Child with John the Baptist and St Anthony the Abbot, by Jacopo Bassano (c. 1510–92), which was painted in the early 1560s, is one of the rare Italian Renaissance paintings in Finland. It belongs to the Ester and Jalo Sihtola Fine Arts Foundation Donation in the Finnish National Gallery and is a highlight of the Sinebrychoff Art Museum. My first encounter with the painting while a young university student was pivotal in my choice of professional career. Since then I have been studying different aspects of the art of this great master painter.[1] The Sihtola painting is well known to scholars. It was included in the important exhibitions at the Museo Civico in Bassano del Grappa in 1992 and also at the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, in 1993.[2] At the beginning of 1992, the results of the research project on Italian art in the Finnish collections carried out at the University of Helsinki from the mid-1980s onwards were published in the Ateneum, Finnish National Gallery Bulletin and an exhibition was organised at the Sinebrychoff Art Museum.[3] On that occasion I highlighted in my article the distinguished and noble, yet hitherto unknown provenance of this painting. The re-publication of that article in FNG Research is prompted by the current plans for a monographic exhibition on Jacopo Bassano in the near future. The exhibitions in 1992, and the show in Museo Civico in Bassano del Grappa in 2010 are the last monographic exhibitions on Jacopo Bassano. The forthcoming exhibition in Helsinki, which has been preliminarily scheduled to 2024, will actually be the first monographic show on the artist to be mounted outside Italy.

I hope that this re-publication online will disseminate the results on the provenance of the painting more widely and will promote its further research. We are also publishing here all of the information on the frame moulding of the painting, which includes images of a coat of arms and a seal and three paper labels. These details were not included in the original 1992 article.[4]

[1] My dissertation, which I defended at the University of Helsinki in 2008, dealt with Jacopo Bassano as a fresco painter. Kirsi Eskelinen. Jacopo Bassano freskomaalarina. Cartiglianon ja Enegon kirkkojen freskot: konteksti, rekonstruktio ja tulkinta. (Jacopo Bassano as a fresco painter. The frescoes of Cartigliano and Enego Parish Churches: context, reconstruction and interpretation). Helsinki: Suomen kirkkohistoriallinen seura / Societas historiae ecclesiasticae Fennica, 2008. An important conference on Jacopo Bassano was organised in Bassano del Grappa and Padua in 2011. The paper I presented there is published, see Kirsi Eskelinen. ‘Una proposta per la lettura iconografica delle Stagioni di Jacopo Bassano’, in Claudia Caramanna and Federico Millozzi (eds.), Jacopo Bassano, I figli, la scuola, l’eredità: Atti del Convegno Internazionale di Studio: Bassano del Grappa, Museo Civico, Padova, Università degli Studi, Archivio Antico del Bò, 30 marzo – 2 aprile 2011, Bollettino del Museo Civico di Bassano 30–31 (2009–10), 32–33 (2011–12), 34 (2013). Bassano del Grappa: Centro di documentazione sui Bassano W.R. Rearick, 2014, (Vol. 1, 142–59).

[2] Beverly Louise Brown and Paola Marini (eds.). Jacopo Bassano c. 1510–1592. Bologna: Nuova Alfa Editore, 1992.

[3] Kirsi Eskelinen. ‘Neitsyt Maria, Jeesus-lapsi, Johannes Kastaja ja Pyhä Antonius Apotti (Sacra conversazione), Jacopo Bassano = Virgin and Child with John the Baptist and St Anthony the Abbot (Sacra Conversazione), Jacopo Bassano. Conservator’s report / Sirkka Nurminen. Ateneum, Valtion taidemuseon museojulkaisu / The Finnish National Gallery Bulletin 1992. Helsinki: Valtion taidemuseo, 1992, (42–47).

[4] They were discussed and reproduced in a research report. See Kirsi Eskelinen. ‘Jacopo Bassanon Sacra Conversazione Sihtolan kokoelmissa’, in Italialaisia renessanssimaalauksia suomalaisissa kokoelmissa 1, Taidehistorialliset analyysit ja selvitykset (esitutkimus). Helsinki, 1988, 80–124, 229, kuvat 4–7; III Kuvat.

Featured image: Jacopo Bassano, Virgin and Child with John the Baptist and St Anthony the Abbot, c. 1560–65, oil on canvas, 108cm x 130cm
Ester and Jalo Sihtola Fine Arts Foundation Donation, Finnish National Gallery / Sinebrychoff Art Museum
Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Matti Janas

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Giambattista Tiepolo, Study of a Female Head (recto) and Study of a Male Head (verso), c. 1730–31, white and black chalk on paper, 28.5cm x 21cm. Finnish National Gallery / Sinebrychoff Art Museum Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Jenni Nurminen

Editorial: Reuniting Tiepolos in 2020

Kirsi Eskelinen, PhD, Museum Director, Finnish National Gallery / Sinebrychoff Art Museum

 

1 October 2020

 

The COVID-19 pandemic and the closing of international borders has caused major problems for the collaboration of museums worldwide. However, this situation which we all are experiencing, whether we are in Finland or in London, has encouraged museums to find new ways to connect and to work together with colleagues. Museums are also willing to make compromises on their usual procedures, for example with loans to institutions abroad. In a way, I would say that the difficulties have strengthened the will to co-operate and make things happen. This has certainly been the case with the exhibition ‘Tiepolo – Venice in the North’, which opened at the Sinebrychoff Art Museum in September. All of our partner museums were dedicated to making sure the loans that had been agreed reached their destination and they were ready to work very hard to realise our common goal. In the end, the pandemic has also had positive effects – paradoxically this widespread isolation has at the same strengthened the international museum community.

Another aspect of museum work that has gained new attention is the importance and value of museum collections. It might seem a cliché to say that the collection is the heart of a museum. Now collections and the research relating to them have been rediscovered. At the Sinebrychoff Art Museum we have focused on the research work concerning the jewels of our collection during recent years. Conducting research on old masters is time-consuming and is of course based on collaboration with various specialists in the field. The aim of our research is to lead to an exhibition project, which allows us to show our own artworks in their proper and meaningful context. Our Lucas Cranach exhibition in the autumn 2019 was our first of this kind.

‘Tiepolo – Venice in the North’ began as a research project concerning the provenance of two paintings in our museum’s collection. The paintings, The Rape of the Sabine Women, by Giambattista Tiepolo and the Greeks Sacking Troy, by his son Giandomenico Tiepolo, are both oil sketches, which are preparations for full-scale paintings. The National Gallery in London also has two more oil sketches belonging to the same series of the Trojan Horse, namely the Building of the Trojan Horse and The Procession of the Trojan Horse into Troy. We know that these three oil sketches were still together in the early 19th century, when they were sold in St Petersburg. Now, for the first time in 200 years, the three paintings are reunited in Helsinki. This marks one of the major highlights of the show.

In addition to paintings, an important part of the oeuvres of Giambattista and Giandomenico Tiepolo are their drawings and etchings, and these are also well represented in the exhibition. The Sinebrychoff Art Museum has recently acquired a rare, double-sided drawing by Giambattista. The sketch, Study of a Female Head (recto) and Study of a Male Head (verso) is related to the lost frescoes of the Palazzo Archinto in Milan. Scholars are aware of only a few of Giambattista’s early works in chalk and therefore these studies form an important point of reference. Special mention must be also made of a rare loan from the National Library of Finland, an album containing the complete production of etchings by the family members, published by Giandomenico after the death of his father. This album is a uniquely well-preserved example of a first edition hitherto unknown to Tiepolo scholars.

The preliminary idea for the exhibition concept in 2015 was to bring the Trojan Horse series together. However, we soon realised that the Tiepolo small-scale paintings and oil sketches in other Nordic countries, and in Russia, should be included too. Many of the paintings have an important and early provenance related to the royal houses both in Sweden and Russia. Some of these paintings had arrived in these countries already during the lifetime of Giambattista. The exhibition and its accompanying catalogue focus on the story behind his far-reaching reputation and the diffusion of this art to the most northern parts of Europe. The show is the result of a longstanding collaboration between the Sinebrychoff Art Museum, international experts in the Tiepolo field and museum curators in St Petersburg, Stockholm, London and Venice.

Ira Westergård, the Chief Curator of the Sinebrychoff Art Museum, has served as the project manager for this ambitious initiative, which comprises research on the provenance of our two Tiepolo paintings and the exhibition project. In this issue we publish an interview with Ira Westergård, by Gill Crabbe. The article reveals the fascinating world of provenance research.

The Ateneum Art Museum and the Museum of Contemporary Art  Kiasma also share the same ambition and passion to promote the research concerning the Finnish National Gallery’s collection. Senior researcher Anu Utriainen presents Elga Sesemann (1922–2007) an artist who was virtually forgotten for many decades in post-war art history and only rediscovered quite recently. Elga Seseman – A Women Artist Rediscovered is a research project that will culminate in an exhibition at the Ateneum Art Museum in 2021. Meanwhile, in September the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma opened its exhibition on the sound artist and musician Mika Vainio (1966–2017). The three articles from the exhibition catalogue that we publish in this issue – by Kati Kivinen, Leevi Haapala and Rikke Lundgreen – delineate a portrait of this versatile sound artist and composer, who took part in many international group exhibitions, presenting his spatial sound installations.

This issue of FNG Research also includes a peer-reviewed article by Professor Juliet Simpson, who presents new research on the reception and Nachleben (afterlife) of the art of Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472–1553) during the 19th century and especially during the latter part of it. The paper is entitled ‘Lucas Cranach’s Legacies – “Primitive” and Rooted identities of Art and Nation at the European Fin de Siècle.’

Also in this issue the Finnish National Gallery announces its fifth Call for Research Interns.

With warm wishes for the coming season.

Featured image: Giambattista Tiepolo, Study of a Female Head (recto) and Study of a Male Head (verso), c. 1730–31, white and black chalk on paper, 28.5cm x 21cm. Finnish National Gallery / Sinebrychoff Art Museum
Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Jenni Nurminen

Lucas Cranach the Elder, Portrait of a Young Woman, 1525, oil on panel, 41cm x 27cm. O. W. Klinckowström Collection, Finnish National Gallery / Sinebrychoff Art Museum Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Hannu Aaltonen

Editorial: On the Trail of the Old Masters

Kirsi Eskelinen, PhD, Museum Director, Finnish National Gallery, Sinebrychoff Art Museum, Helsinki

 

24 September 2019

 

Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472–1553) the great German Renaissance Master, and Helene Schjerfbeck (1862–1946), one of the most well-known Finnish women painters, are taking centre stage in Helsinki and in London in two important exhibitions.

The Sinebrychoff Art Museum’s exhibition ‘Lucas Cranach – Renaissance Beauties’ presents an area of Cranach’s oeuvre that has received less attention: female beauty and nudes. The starting point for the exhibition concept was the only two Cranach paintings located in Finland, which belong to the Sinebrychoff Art Museum collections: Portrait of a Young Woman (1525) and Lucretia (1530). This is the first monographic exhibition of Cranach to take place in Finland and includes paintings and prints from across Europe’s collections.

We decided to revisit our two Cranach paintings in terms of technical investigation, as well as art-historical research in connection to the forthcoming exhibition. Portrait of a Young Woman was studied comprehensively about 30 years ago, but now there is extensive new technical research data about Cranach’s work that is easily accessible to researchers through Cranach Digital Archive project. At the same time research by art historians has deepened our understanding of Cranach’s art.

Professor Gunnar Heydenreich is head of the Cranach Digital Archive and the leading expert on Cranach’s workshop. We are really delighted and grateful that Dr Heydenreich had time to travel to Helsinki and study the paintings together with our specialists. In this issue we publish an interview with Dr Heydenreich, by Gill Crabbe. The article paints a vivid picture of the art-historical research today and and the refined technical methods used nowadays by conservators in studying works of art.

The major exhibition of Helene Schjerfbeck at London’s Royal Academy of Arts marks an important collaboration with the Ateneum Art Museum. The show will travel to Helsinki later in the autumn. We publish an interview with independent curator Jeremy Lewison who put together the exhibition along with the co-curators Anna-Maria von Bondsdorff, who is Chief Curator at the Ateneum Art Museum, and the RA’s Sarah Lea. Lewison describes the powerful impact Schjerfbeck’s self-portraits had on him, and how they have also been given a significant role in the exhibition. He also emphasises Schjerfbeck’s strong connection with Old Master painting, underlining her engagement with the tradition and her own transformation of it within the modern or the early modernist tradition. Also in this issue, the painter and Royal Academician Ian McKeever reflects on Schjerfbeck’s self-portraits in the context of the development of this genre in Western art. Meanwhile, curator Anu Utriainen offers a more general view on women artists who were active in Finland during the early 20th century in her article dealing with historical, economic and social aspects. This article is also in the catalogue of the exhibition ‘Creating the Self: Emancipating Woman in Estonian and Finnish Art’ that opens at Kumu, Art Museum of Estonia, in Tallinn on 6 December 2019.

Also in this issue the Finnish National Gallery announces its fourth Call for Research Interns, for 2020.

Finally a reminder that this is the last chance to submit proposals for the European Revivals Conference at the Ateneum in January 2020. The deadline is 30 September 2019.

Featured image: Lucas Cranach the Elder, Portrait of a Young Woman, 1525, oil on panel,
41cm x 27cm. O. W. Klinckowström Collection, Finnish National Gallery / Sinebrychoff Art Museum
Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Hannu Aaltonen

Paul Sinebrychoff’s study in the house museum at the Sinebrychoff Art Museum, Helsinki Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Sonja Hyytiäinen

Editorial: Feeling at Home at the Sinebrychoff Art Museum

Kirsi Eskelinen, PhD, Museum Director, Finnish National Gallery, Sinebrychoff Art Museum

 

27 September 2018

 

The collection of Paul and Fanny Sinebrychoff, donated to the Finnish State in 1921, and now on show on the second floor of the house museum, is the heart of the Sinebrychoff Art Museum. The display is a faithful reconstruction of their home as it was during the 1910s. It was opened in 2003 after a thorough renovation of the whole museum building.

In addition to its important collection of Old Master paintings, the house museum also includes a unique and rare collection of furniture, as well as porcelain, mirrors, clocks etc. Some of these pieces have turned out to be of a very special value as, for example, the cylinder secretaire in mahogany with its intarsia decoration, a masterpiece by the 18th-century Swedish carpenter Gustaf Adolph Ditzinger (1760–1800).

The artworks and various objects in the house museum offer us a special challenge. How to tell our audience the story of the house museum and the many stories behind the individual objects? How to give a voice to the collectors Paul and Fanny? Visitors are also interested to hear about life in the house at different historical moments.

In fact we have already taken some first steps to meet that challenge. A couple of years ago we launched a dramatised guided tour. Visitors can enjoy the life and atmosphere of the house as it would have been 100 years ago at the beginning of 20th century, while being guided through the house by ‘Fanny Sinebrychoff’ herself. In addition, some years ago we published a virtual tour of the house museum on the museum’s website, in which visitors can explore and enjoy the different rooms with all their furnishings. Paul’s study offers a chance to deepen the virtual visit even further, as you can learn more about the individual works of art hanging on the walls just by clicking on them on the web page. We also recently renewed the display of the Paul Sinebrychoff’s miniatures collection and in a new initiative we made the tiny portraits more accessible to visitors with the aid of tablets, which magnify the details and show images of the hidden parts of these objects.

Now we have just launched an audio-guided tour of the house museum which takes you through the rooms in the company of ‘Paul and Fanny’. You can enjoy this tour in the museum’s website, at home or listen to it on your mobile phone while strolling around the museum. We hope that in the future we are able to tell our audience even more fascinating stories of the people who have lived at this special home, and their beloved collection, their life.

This autumn we have just opened ‘Moved to tears: Staging emotions’ at the Sinebrychoff Art Museum. The exhibition explores the reciprocal influences of theatre and painting in expressing emotions through gestures and poses. The works of art on show date from the Baroque era to the late 19th century. The exhibition is dedicated to Fanny Sinebrychoff, who was herself a celebrated actress in the Swedish Theatre in Helsinki before she married Paul Sinebrychoff in 1883. See the interview with the curator of the exhibition, Laura Gutman in the FNG Research issue 3/2018 (https://research.fng.fi/category/issues/2018-no-3/).

In this issue of FNG Research we are happy to publish the first peer-reviewed article written for the magazine: Art Collections Born through Division ─ Kouri Collection Case Study, by Kari Tuovinen MSc. Also in this issue the Finnish National Gallery announces its third Call for Research Interns, for 2019.

Featured image: Paul Sinebrychoff’s study in the house museum at the Sinebrychoff Art Museum, Helsinki
Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Sonja Hyytiäinen

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Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn, The Reading Monk, 1661, oil on canvas, 82cm x 66cm The Hjalmar Linder Donation, Finnish National Gallery / Sinebrychoff Art Museum Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Yehia Eweis

Sinebrychoff Art Museum’s Rembrandt Joins International Database

Kirsi Eskelinen, PhD, Museum Director, Finnish National Gallery, Sinebrychoff Art Museum, Helsinki

The Reading Monk by Rembrandt van Rijn, which is at the Finnish National Gallery / Sinebrychoff Art Museum, has now been included in the Rembrandt Database. The Rembrandt Database is a research resource for information and documentation on paintings by Rembrandt or attributed to him. The database is maintained by RKD (Netherlands Institute for Art history) in The Hague and is supported by The Andrew F. Mellon Foundation in New York. The site contains art-historical documentation on more than 600 paintings. In addition to that, it also contains visual and textual material from the technical analysis and treatment of the paintings. Its significance as the leading portal for Rembrandt research is recognised worldwide.

As a practical outcome this marks the first step in the research project on The Reading Monk at the Sinebrychoff Art Museum. All the documentation concerning provenance research, literature and technical analysis has been carefully scanned and new information has been added. Now scholars have free access to all the data concerning The Reading Monk via the Rembrandt Database. We hope that this will also promote international research interest in the museum’s painting.

Database website: www.rembrandtdatabase.org

Featured Image: Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn, The Reading Monk, 1661, oil on canvas, 82cm x 66cm
The Hjalmar Linder Donation, Finnish National Gallery / Sinebrychoff Art Museum
Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Yehia Eweis

Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, Study of a Female Head (recto), c. 1730, black chalk with white chalk highlights, 28.5cm x 21cm, Finnish National Gallery / Sinebrychoff Art Museum. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Jenni Nurminen

Editorial: Network Gains

Kirsi Eskelinen, PhD, Museum Director, Finnish National Gallery, Sinebrychoff Art Museum

 

26 September 2017

 

Whether we are talking about research work or exhibition planning, the key words are collaboration and networks. For curators working with Dutch and Flemish Art there is CODART, an international network for curators of art from the Low Countries. CODART organises annual conferences and other scholarly meetings that also provide platforms for exchanging ideas on research and exhibition collaboration. The Caesar van Everdingen exhibition at the Sinebrychoff Art Museum from spring 2017 is a good example of the importance of these kinds of networks.

In the field of Old Masters the research work carried out by the Sinebrychoff Art Museum is international from the very beginning. When it comes to the exhibitions, one of our strategies is organising exhibitions that grow out of the research into works that are the highlights of our own collection. The research process itself can be long and painstaking as it usually involves specialists from different fields of expertise such as conservators, technicians, of course not forgetting art historians.

A good example of this kind of international collaboration is the research work that is being carried out by the museum into the provenance of two Tiepolo paintings, The Rape of the Sabine Women by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo (1696–1770) and Greeks Entering Troy by Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo (1727–1804). The art of the Tiepolos was highly appreciated and sought after by the art collectors in northern countries such as Russia and Sweden during the late-18th and 19th centuries. Ira Westergård, Chief Curator at the Sinebrychoff Art Museum, is leading the provenance research project on the two Tiepolo paintings. In an interview in this issue she talks about the importance of provenance research in art-historical practice.

Also in this issue of FNG Research the Finnish National Gallery is announcing its second Call for Research Interns, for 2018.

Featured image: Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, Study of a Female Head (recto), c. 1730, black chalk with white chalk highlights, 28.5cm x 21cm, Finnish National Gallery / Sinebrychoff Art Museum. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Jenni Nurminen

Giovanni Domenico Bossi, Portrait of a Lady, undated, watercolour and gouache on ivory, 6,3cm x 6,3cm, Paul and Fanny Sinebrychoff Collection, Sinebrychoff Art Museum, Finnish National Gallery. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Hannu Aaltonen

Editorial: Sinebrychoff’s Small Gems

Kirsi Eskelinen, PhD, Museum Director, Sinebrychoff Art Museum

 

July 14, 2016

 

The renowned art collector Paul Sinebrychoff had a special interest in portraits. He also gathered a rare collection of miniatures which, in his own time in the late 19th century, was the largest collection in Northern Europe. The collection includes about 400 pieces and is still the most important collection in Finland.

About 15 years ago, the miniatures were studied and conservation work was then carried out on them as part of a thorough renewal and restoration of the museum building of the Sinebrychoff Art Museum on Bulevardi in Helsinki. However, as is the case with every part of the collection, they need to be taken care of on a continuous basis. Now, the miniatures are being treated again. There are only a few specialists in miniature painting conservation. Dr. Bernd Pappe, who is interviewed in this issue, is a world-renowned specialist in this field, as well as an art historian. He reveals the painstaking work behind the scenes.

During the past two years special effort has been put into developing the access to the art works in Paul and Fanny Sinebrychoff’s house museum. It is an essential part of the Sinebrychoff Art Museum’s new strategy to engage our audiences and generate a new kind of dialogue and encounter with the art works in the milieu of the collector’s home, which is a unique example of its kind in Finland. When visiting our website you can already have a virtual tour of the house museum or make acquaintance with Paul Sinebrychoff’s favourite portraits – his friends as he used to call them – hanging in his study.

Museum curator Reetta Kuojärvi-Närhi has studied the miniature collection. She is currently leading a project on the miniatures, which enables us to present them with a digital platform to make them more accessible and even more enjoyable and exciting to the general public.

Featured image: Giovanni Domenico Bossi, Portrait of a Lady, undated, watercolour and gouache on ivory, 6,3cm x 6,3cm, Paul and Fanny Sinebrychoff Collection, Sinebrychoff Art Museum, Finnish National Gallery. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Hannu Aaltonen

Editorial: The Secret History of an Old Master

Kirsi Eskelinen, PhD, Museum Director, Sinebrychoff Art Museum

 

November 25, 2015

 

The Sinebrychoff Art Museum houses the most significant collection of Old Masters in Finland. The collection has grown as a result of several donations, the earliest ones dating back to the time of Grand Dutchy of Finland in the 19th century. Among the most important is the collection of Paul and Fanny Sinebrychoff which was donated in 1921 and is on show on the 1st floor of the museum. The works on display in a part this section of the museum are included in a faithful reconstruction of the Sinebrychoffs’ home as it was during the 1910s (see photograph above). The Museum’s collection spreads over several hundreds of years, from the 14th to the 19th century, and includes paintings, sculptures, prints and drawings and antiquities.

The research activity conducted in the Museum is focusing on the works of art from many different points of view and often has a multi-scholarly approach. The paintings can be studied in order to clarify questions concerning the authenticity, the attribution or the dating for example. When planning the conservation of a work of art, it is first studied technically. The collaboration of art historian and conservator is essential in the conservation process, as well as in the research into the work and actually a conservation treatment offers a natural opportunity to study the work in question more thoroughly.

The Rembrandt painting Reading Monk (1661) is considered one of the jewels of the Finnish National Gallery. There are no other paintings by Rembrandt in Finnish collections. This painting has been traditionally attributed to Rembrandt and it bears his signature. However, recently some doubts have been put forward concerning the attribution. The painting has been studied using various methods of technical analysis during previous decades, but it lacks a coherent and overall consideration. Sinebrychoff Art Museum together with the Conservation Department is now planning an international research project on the Rembrandt painting combining the expertise of scientists, art historians and conservators using modern technical methods of study. We hope that the painting will finally reveal its secret, whether or not it was executed by the great Dutch master.

Featured image: Paul Sinebrychoff in his study in 1910s, photographed by Signe Brander. Photo: Archive Collections, Finnish National Gallery

The Adoration of the Magi – a Masterpiece

Kirsi Eskelinen, Director, Sinebrychoff Art Museum, Finnish National Gallery

First published in Art’s Memory – Layers of Conservation. Edited by Reetta Kuojärvi-Närhi, Maija Santala, Ari Tanhuanpää, Anne-Mari Forss. Sinebrychoffin taidemuseon julkaisuja (Sinebrychoff Art Museum Publications). Helsinki: Finnish National Gallery / Sinebrychoff Art Museum, 2005

Eliel Aspelin-Haapkylä had bought this painting of the Adoration of the Magi in Venice in 1898. [1] According to Osvald Sirén it would have been the jewel of Aspelin’s collection had it not been in such poor condition. Sirén, however, had deeper insight when he attributed this ‘beautiful ruin’ to Giovanni Boccati in 1921. [2] The abundant ornamentality and fluent composition of the Late Gothic were, according to Sirén, characteristic of the work owned by Aspelin, which he associated in terms of style with Gentile da Fabriano and particularly with a painting of the same title by him in Florence. The figures of the Virgin and children, the nature of the background scenery and the decorative details of the painting in turn pointed to Boccati. Sirén compared this painting to an altarpiece predella painted by Boccati in 1447 (Pala del Pergolato, Perugia), with its theme of the Passion and especially the scene of Christ bearing His cross. In the latter work, the marine landscape and the town wall with its towers resembled the Aspelin painting. [3] Sirén dates the work in Aspelin’s collection to before the Perugia predella of 1447. [4]

[1] Eliel Aspelin-Haapkylä observed the connections of the painting with the works of Gentile da Fabriano in his notes, where he wrote “Tuscan-Umbrian in the manner of Gentile da Fabriano”. Literature Archives of the Finnish Literature Society, folder A469, Helsinki. I am indebted to Hanne Selkokari for this information.

[2] Sirén, Osvald, 1921. Tidiga Italienska Målningar i Finska Samlingar. Stenmans konstrevy no 4–5, 1921, 44.

[3] Sirén 1921, 43–44.

[4] Sirén 1921, 45. Sirén leaves any closer dating open by noting: ”… and have cause to assume that he was already active several years previously.”

Featured image: Giovanni Boccati, The Adoration of the Magi, (1440–1445), oil on panel, 80cm x 53,2cm, Aspelin-Haapkylä Collection, Sinebrychoff Art Museum. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Hannu Aaltonen

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