This project belongs to the field of art and cultural history. As part of the larger research project Graeco-Roman Antiquities in Finnish Collections this project is focused on ancient statuary, free standing statues and reliefs alike, and their copies as plaster or bronze casts (or in any other material). After the Great Fire of the city of Turku in 1827 and the ensuing loss of many such items, interest in the collecting of antiquities was rekindled in Finland. The purchase of three plaster casts of ancient statues from Paris by the students of the University of Helsinki in the 1840's marks the start of this new era. However, interest in collecting ancient statues seems to have continued in various forms at least until the end of the 1920's.
The initial cataloging of material and preliminary research has already been carried out, in various locations in Helsinki, Turku, Jyväskylä, and Vaasa. These four cities are home to several collections scattered throughout schools, universities and museums, rarely exhibited and mostly lying in storerooms. Future cataloging will also cover items held in manor houses. At the current state of the research, some one hundred and twenty unpublished copies of ancient statuary, consisting of plaster casts, mostly in large format, as well as bronze and antiqued papier-mâché, are currently known. The seventy plaster casts at the University of Helsinki, acquired in 1871-1888 and initially published in 1974, will also be added to this ensemble.
Special attention is paid to the following aspects of the collecting process: what subjects were chosen and on what criteria, the identification of the purchaser (whether an institution or individual), the intellectual and economic background driving the acquisition of ancient statuary, the identification of the European transactors (i.e. museums or foundries), the original Finnish setting of the statues, and their later history. In pursuing this information, not only the statues themselves but also old photos and public and private archives may provide invaluable information. Through the collection of this diverse data, a versatile picture of how ancient sculpture was viewed, valued and used in Finland throughout past decades can be obtained.
This project is in its first phases. It has two principal researchers, the undersigned and PhD Hanne Selkokari from the Institute of Philosophy, History, Culture and Art Studies of the University of Helsinki. The project is carried out in close cooperation with respective museum staffs, whose continuous support shall be invaluable also in the future. The ultimate goal of the project is to publish the statues in an English-language catalog, with detailed background information which will provide a picture of the reception of ancient material culture in Finland over more than a century. At the same time, the results will also reflect the broader European interest in classical art and neoclassicism, and illustrate Finland's connection to this cultural movement.