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Albert Edelfelt

(Finland, 1854-1905)
Albert Edelfelt
(Finland, 1854-1905)

Albert Edelfelt, Reading woman.

Sign. "A mon ami G.Bagge, A.Edelfelt 1879". Oil on board 27x21 cm

Wear due to age and use.


Compare B. Hintze, Albert Edelfelt, Helsinki 1942, no. 136, illustrated in Hintze 1953, p.518.
Albert Edelfelts letters to Alexandra Edelfelt about the painting process, Svenska litteratursällskapet, (Paris 30.11.1879, 15.12.1879, 17.12.1879, 14.12.1879, 8.1.1880, 14.1.1880, 18.1.1880 and 24.1.1880)

More information

In the winter of 1879-1880, Albert Edelfelt completed the prize-winning 'A Child's funeral" in his rented studio in Paris at 81, rue Montparnasse. The studio had a large skylight in addition to the large wall window and the space was bathed in light. Here he painted a series of genre paintings, intended for the international art market and inspired by history, mainly from the Renaissance, such as 'A Proposal', 'The Countryman and the Girl', 'L'Education de un Prince' and 'Family devotion' (1880). The interiors for this series were painted by Edelfelt in the Museé Cluny, a popular interior museum in the Latin Quarter of Paris with both medieval and Renaissance interiors where artists had free access to the spaces. Many of Edelfelt's sketches and works from this period are painted on half-sized wooden panels, which facilitated transport between the museum and the studio. In December 1879, he was already sending sketches to the client of 'Family devotion', Kotschubey in St Petersburg, through the agency of his compatriot Axel Gadolin.

Edelfelt wrote several letters from Paris to his mother Alexandra Edelfelt in Helsinki about the progress of 'Family devotion' and also sent an ink drawing that his sister Berta Edelfelt published in 1917 in the first volume of Albert Edelfelt's letters. He writes that it shows a woman painted in the style of Ebba Stenbock, dressed in black velvet and reading from a Bible on a dark red tablecloth. The model is an elderly Italian woman, reminiscent of Ebba Stenbock in Edelfelt's large salon painting of 1878, 'Duke Karl insulting the Corpse of Klaus Fleming'. In a letter home to his mother, dated Christmas Eve 1879, Edelfelt writes about the model, "I have enough of beautiful girls' heads, and they rarely turn out well", and in January he suggests that the work could be called "la lecture de la Bible". In other words, it is not a direct historical depiction, but Edelfelt has developed the religious undertones from the historical events of Duke Karl's insult of Klaus Fleming's corpse at Turku Castle in 1597, with his wife Ebba Stenbock as one of the main characters. For this painting, executed in the winter of 1877-1878, the model was also an Italian woman.

This previously unknown sketch, now offered for sale, has according to given information belonged to the Swedish artist Gustaf Bagge and was passed down in the family until recently. Gustaf Pontus Bagge (1839-1915) worked for several decades in Paris as a geographical-topographical draughtsman for the publishing company Hachette. He moved to Paris in 1869 and in 1870 took part in the Franco-German War and was appointed a captain in the French engineering corps.

Marina Catani


Albert Edelfelt is considered one of Finland's greatest artists of the 19th century. After studying in Antwerp and Paris, he settled in France, where he received several exhibition medals and was honored with the Legion of Honour, notably for the famous portrait of Pasteur. He was also summoned by Alexander III to St. Petersburg to portray the Tsar's children. Edelfelt often returned to themes from Finnish history, such as his illustrations for 'The Tales of Ensign Stål.'

Edelfelt's works display an artistic breadth that ranges from everyday life in the Finnish archipelago to prestigious society portraits and historical paintings. In his depictions of everyday life, he managed to merge traditional academic painting with the new techniques of plein air painting, which achieved great success in France. The painting 'The Funeral of a Child' was awarded a third-class medal at the annual Salon in Paris in 1880, marking the most significant international success for Finnish painting at the time.

Albert Edelfelt is primarily represented in Ateneum in Helsinki, but also in the National Museum in Stockholm, as well as museums in Copenhagen, Luxembourg, and Paris.

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Johan Wulff
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