The Sinebrychoff family in Helsinki comes from the market town of Gavrilov, from the Vladimir Province northeast of Moscow. Peter was the first Sinebrychoff to settle in Finland, working as a merchant at the end of the 18th century in the Kymenlaakso region which had been ceded to Russia in 1743. We know that Peter Sinebrychoff, who died in 1805, had at least nine children: six sons and three daughters. His sons Nikolai and Paul continued the family trade in Finland.
NIKOLAI SINEBRYCHOFF (1786‒1848)
In 1817, Nikolai Sinebrychoff moved his store to the Viapori fortress outside Helsinki. He soon became the supplier for the large Russian regiment in the fortress, doing construction projects as a sideline. His business extended to new sectors: in the same year, he bought himself exclusive rights to distil alcohol for five years in an auction; the permit was later extended until 1853. In 1819, he acquired similar exclusive rights to brew beer.
Nikolai Sinebrychoff built a great house in a large garden next to his brewery and distillery in Hietalahti, which at the time was still on the outskirts of the capital city. Nikolai led a bachelor life in his modest abode in Viapori and never moved to his town house completed in 1842. Nikolai Sinebrychoff died without children in 1848.
PAUL SINEBRYCHOFF THE ELDER (1799‒1883)
Nikolai’s younger brother Paul, who lived alone upstairs in the house built by his elder brother, inherited a profitable business. He was taken care of by a constantly changing row of housekeepers, a position that was taken by a captain’s widow Tichanoff (née Landström) from Turku who came to the house with her 16-year-old daughter, Anna.
Paul became attracted to the young Anna (1830‒1904), and in 1850, the 50-year-old Paul wed his 19-year-old bride. It was a happy marriage. Four children were born in the 1850s: first Maria in 1852, then Anna in 1854, the first son Nicolas in 1856, and finally Paul, named after his father, in 1859.
Paul Sinebrychoff the Elder developed the family business into a big company with significant shares in all major economic sectors in Finland. Although he no longer had exclusive rights in distilling alcohol nor brewing beer, he managed to retain brewing as the basis of the business. After the death of Paul the Elder in 1883, his widow Anna successfully took care of the inheritance until her death in 1904.
NICOLAS SINEBRYCHOFF (1856‒1896) AND PAUL SINEBRYCHOFF THE YOUNGER (1859‒1917)
Paul the Younger was not originally supposed to follow his father in the business. This position was passed on to the elder brother, Nicolas, who was made the managing director of the company in 1878. Nicolas was a sociable and friendly person, an outdoors enthusiast who liked to hunt and sail, among other things. He turned out to be a mediocre businessman, however, and had to give up his position to his younger brother, Paul, who – with his mother’s permission – took charge of the business and its development at the age of 29, and proved to be an effective director. Like his father, he invested company money in various shares and bonds. By the turn of the 20th century, the Sinebrychoff family was the biggest owner of the Union Bank of Finland (Yhdyspankki), for example. In 1888, the company became a limited company. When Paul Sinebrychoff the Younger died without children in 1917, the brewery passed on to the family of Paul’s sister. Now the brewery is owned by the Danish Carlsberg.
PAUL AND FANNY SINEBRYCHOFF
When Paul Sinebrychoff the Younger married actress Fanny Grahn (1862‒1921) in October 1883, he no longer needed to bear responsibility for the family business. The young couple had time to travel abroad and see its art treasures.
“We loved art from a young age. When we travelled abroad after we got married in the 1880s, we never failed to visit art galleries. Seeing all those beautiful and uplifting things they presented to viewers in abundance, we were struck by a burning desire to give the citizens of our faraway home country an opportunity to have their share in it. The decision to start collecting valuable pieces of art to our own home evolved then, pieces that we could – maybe one day after the collection had grown – donate to the Finnish government.”
– Fanny Sinebrychoff, Suomen kuvalehti magazine 1921
The Sinebrychoffs started collecting art in the 1890s. In 1921, after almost thirty years of collecting, Fanny Sinebrychoff donated a collection of about 900 works of art to the government, as was their mutual wish. The collection is housed in its original home, in the Sinebrychoff Art Museum in Helsinki, at Bulevardi 40, where the home of Paul and Fanny Sinebrychoff has been “revived” after many decades.