Neoclassical masterworks

Antiquity has always fascinated artists, and sculptors in particular. Towards the end of the 18th century, imitating “old” art became considered as the only way to achieve greatness in art.

  • 4.9.2014–19.4.2015
Red Cellar
Tickets: with a museum ticket
Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Hannu Pakarinen.

Greek sculptures were especially seen as sources of the antique ideal of beauty. In the 18th century, these idealised sculptures formed a set imagery, a canon, the knowledge of which was regarded as a part of people’s general knowledge at the time.

At the centre of the Statuesque exhibition are neoclassical sculptures of the following North European artists: Johan Tobias Sergel (1740–1818) from Sweden, Bertel Thorvaldsen (1770–1844) and Vilhelm Bissen (1836–1913) from Denmark, Emil Wolff (1802–1879) from Germany and Walter Runeberg (1838–1920) and Johannes Takanen (1849–1885) from Finland.

The exhibition also displays small sculptures that follow the antique canon, such as The Laocoön Group, Hera Ludovisi, Medici Venus and Dancing Faun. Affluent home owners in Finland acquired these small statues of antique beauty in the hope that they would be seen as signs of their good breeding and taste.