Rococo – Nordic Interpretations

Berndtson, Edelfelt, Watteau

The summer exhibition of the Sinebrychoff Art Museum offers perspectives into 19th century interpretations of Rococo, and views the phenomenon in the wider context of admiration of the 18th century in Finland, Sweden and Denmark. Albert Edelfelt, Gunnar Berndtson and Carl Larsson portrayed the period with sophistication and joyful lightness – giving an illusion of an age rediscovered.

  • 28.5.–6.9.2015
Tickets: with a museum ticket
Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Hannu Aaltonen.

The exhibition is curated by French art historian Laura Gutman. There is a strong narrative in the exhibition, helping viewers identify similar characteristics in paintings, costumes and furniture, whether they represent original Rococo, Neo-Rococo or their modern interpretations.

In the Nordic countries, the Rococo did not have such a strong image of frivolity as elsewhere, having more emphasis on the ideas of the Enlightenment philosophers. In Finland, historical links to Sweden were emphasised during a time when Russia tightened its grip of the Grand Duchy of Finland. Neo-Rococo was a political stand against the russification measures.

The original Rococo period is represented in the exhibition by Antoine Watteau, Alexander Roslin and Jean-Baptiste Pater, among others. The real star of the exhibition is ”Les Amateurs de peinture” (1860), the painting by the French master Ernest Meissonier (1815‒1891), on loan from the Musée d’Orsay. It is regarded as the model for Gunnar Berndtson’s ”Art Connoisseurs in the Louvre” (1879). Other important paintings are on loan also from the Louvre and the National Museum of Denmark.

The Rococo costumes and wigs attracted attention. The precious costumes were so desirable in the 18th century that Gustaf III introduced a national costume in Sweden in an effort to discourage squandering money on them. The heavily taxed, sumptuous costumes were rare in Sweden and Finland. Also on display in the exhibition are a Rococo costume from the 1760s from the collection of Livrustkammaren in Stockholm and Rococo-inspired wigs by the artist Helena Hietanen. The decorations of the tall wigs, such as eggs perched on their tops, are references to the exuberance of the Rococo style.

Articles by Laura Gutman and Maria Vainio-Kurtakko in the exhibition publication Neo-Rococo and the North present perspectives into the art and ideas of the era in the Nordic countries.

The exhibition is put together in cooperation with the Serlachius museums.