Moved to Tears


13 SEPTEMBER 2018 – 3 MARCH 2019

Great feelings, passion and dramatic performances!

Throughout the centuries, painting and theatre have inspired each other. Both art forms portray and arouse feelings, expressing them through means such as expressions and poses.

Some visual artists have had extremely close relationships with the theatre world, as many of them have also designed theatre sets and painted portraits of well-known actors. Popular plays and fateful performances of their day have inspired artists as themes, while dramatic paintings of landscapes, storms and shipwrecks have served as models for many theatrical sets.

The exhibition Moved to Tears: Staging Emotions presents compositional methods derived from the theatrical world, dating back to the seventeenth century. The exhibition’s works demonstrate the powerful cultural impact that theatre has had on various genres of art throughout Europe. The exhibition ushers the viewer into a magical world of visual art and theatre. The exhibition is curated by French art historian Laura Gutman.

Aino Ackté Alcestena Styx-virran rannall

Albert Edelfelt (1854–1905): Aino Ackté as Alcestis on the Banks of the Styx, Role Portrait, 1902
Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Jaakko Holm.



Christmas at the house museum − Festive table settings

December 1, 2018 to February 3, 2019

Fanny and Paul Sinebrychoff are settled at the dinner table in their house on Bulevardi, one of the most important private homes in Helsinki. Apart from the host and hostess, the party of eight includes Paul Sinebrychoff’s sisters Anna and Maria, and the family of Paul’s deceased brother Nicolas.

This is how Christmas might have begun in the Sinebrychoff household. The mother of the siblings, Anna Sinebrychoff, had died, which must have left its stamp on the celebrations. Only Paul’s family members had been invited: Anna Kjöllerfeldt and her daughter Ester, Maria and her husband Carl von Wahlberg and Nicolas’s widow Anna (née Nordenstam) with her daughter Olga. There was probably a Christmas dinner for the servants, too, with presents from the master and mistress of the house. Like her mother-in-law Anna Sinebrychoff, Fanny Sinebrychoff was involved in a variety of charities, and specially so during the Christmas season.

As the family’s own tableware is no longer available, our seasonal table settings consist of items from the museum’s other collections and objects borrowed from private owners. Although we do not know what the Sinebrychoffs served their guests, it is probably safe to assume their meal comprised typical Finnish Christmas dishes that are popular even today. Handsome and festive table settings, often featuring a centrepiece of fruit for dessert, were favoured in upper class homes in the 19th century, and silk and wax flower arrangements were common, since it was difficult to get fresh flowers in the middle of the winter.

The dinner table in the Baroque style dining room is set with an extremely fine French porcelain service manufactured by Sèvres in the mid-1800s and formerly owned by Governor-General of Finland Count Nikolay Adlerberg (1819–1892) and his wife Countess Amalie von Lerchenfeld (1808–1888), who was a celebrated beauty in the imperial court of Russia. The glasses are assumed to be Russian and have also belonged to the Adlerberg family. Large sets comprising separate glasses for each beverage began to appear in the 19th century.

The freshly mangled shiny damask linen tablecloth and napkins are from the late 19th century and belonged to the Mannerheim family. At the time, large napkins folded in the shape of French lilies, candles, fans or clam shells were an integral part of festive settings.

The mirrored plateau in the centre is French silver-plated bronze from the mid 1800s. The candelabra are made of German silver, i.e. brass galvanized with silver, a material very much in vogue in the late 19th century. The cutlery is silver and German silver from the late 19th century.

A coffee table has been set in the Gustavian Room with cups in the shape of a rose from the Russian Kuznetsov factory, representing the innovative naturalistic style of design typical of the late 19th century, together with a Russian silver coffee set. In that era, Christmas coffee tables would have featured braided sweet wheat loaves, non-layered cakes, cookies and gingerbread.

Throughout the season, nuts, raisins, marzipan, marmalade, meringue and candied dried fruit were laid out on a separate confectionery table.

The golden-hued Empire Room displays a table set with tea cups featuring a floral design and gilt detailing in Rococo Revival style by the Russian Kornilov Brothers. The Kornilov factory’s products are famous for their high quality, and in 1856, a similar set of tea cups was purchased in St. Petersburg for the Imperial Palace in Helsinki. In those times, a samovar was standard equipment in Finnish upper-class households. The silver-plated brass alloy of this handsome Rococo Revival samovar – a loan from the Presidential Palace – is of Russian or Polish origin. It was customary to serve a variety of pastries at Christmas teas.

It was only after the turn of the 20th century that Christmas trees became common in Finnish households, but many upper-class homes in Helsinki had trees as early as the beginning of the 19th century. The Christmas tree in the main hall is hung with roses made of crepe paper, gold lametta and ribbons with the Latin text Gloria in Excelsis Deo (Glory to God in the Highest Heaven). Such a Christmas tree was erected in the Suur-Ahvenkoski Mansion in Pyhtää, for example.

These festive table settings in the style of the late 19th century were designed in cooperation with the Sinebrychoff Art Museum Friends with expert assistance from Kari Paavo-Kokki. The house museum table settings are displayed from December 1, 2018 to February 3, 2019.