Saturday, 18 September 2010

Finnish Venus: Aino by Johannes Takanen (1849-1885)

Aino, plaster 1876

Agent Triple P always enjoys visiting Helsinki: eating some reindeer, admiring the lovely blondes and visiting the Ateneum Gallery there. So here we present a quintessentially Finnish heroine, Aino, which is on display there.

Johannes Takanen

Johannes Takanen was the son of a crofter from the Gulf of Estonia. He was something of a prodigy, discovered carving animals, then studying from a young age at the Finnish Art Society drawing school (now the Finnish Academy of Fine Arts) and first exhibiting at the age of fifteen. At the age of eighteen he moved to Copenhagen to study at Det Kongelige Danske Kunstakademi. Six years later he went to Rome to study and stayed there, marrying an Italian girl, Giacinta Biavascon.

Although Takanen worked mainly in plaster he really yearned to sculpt in marble but it was largely beyond his means and, as a result, during his whole career he only managed to produce four works in marble. His three principal works were all different variations on beautiful maidens. All solitary, wistful and rather distant.

Aino, marble (1886)

The first of these was Aino (1876) (a figure from the Finnish national epic poem the Kalevala, who we will return to shortly) which he only completed in plaster: the sculpture in marble only being produced after his death. There was some criticism of the fact that Takanen had rendered the Finnish heroine in what was seen as an overly Italianate manner. She gazes across the lake to the distant water maidens of Vellamo who she wishes to join: to drown herself rather than marry the old man she has been promised to by her mother.

Rebecca 1877

His second major female figure was of Rebecca, the biblical wife of Isaac, produced in 1877.

Andromeda (1879-1882)

His third great sculpture was based on the mythical Greek Princess, Andromeda. This was the only one of the three which Takanen carved in marble himself and it took him many years to complete, mainly as he did it in his spare time as he had no finance and no buyer for it. She is depicted chained to a rock to sacrifice herself in order to save her city from a sea monster which is seen on the base of the rock in Tarkanen's sculpture. Andromeda herself looks far from terrified but then maybe she knows that Perseus is en route to save her. Andromeda is also in the Ateneum gallery.

The Senate Square in Helsinki with the Alexander II monument

Takanen won a competition in 1884 to design a monument to the popular Czar Alexander II in Helsinki but he died in Rome the following year, at the age of only 36, leaving only some drawings and sketches. The monument was completed by Walter Runeberg but using some of Takanen's designs, particularly for the figure of the Tsar himself. Desapite later suggestions by Finnish nationalists to replace the figure of Alexander II with Finnish hero Carl Mannerheim the statue still stands in the Senate Square in Helsinki, where Agent Triple P photographed it in the summer of 2007. Takanen's last work.

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