Gunnar Berndtson, Art Connoisseurs in the Louvre, 1879

A circle was closed when the painting Art Connoisseurs in the Louvre by Gunnar Berndston – a relative of the family of de la Chapelle on his mother’s side – ended up to become the pearl of Gösta Serlachius’ art collection in 1929, after a multifaceted history of ownership. A couple of years earlier, the daughter of Gösta Serlachius, Kersti (aka Stina), had been married to baron Claes de la Chapelle.

Gunnar Berndtson (1854–1895) is a renowned Finnish salon painter. His output remained quite small when he died of illness in the age of 41 years. He selected his subject matters from the realm well-known to him, the milieu of manors, parks and villas. He was also a brilliant portrait painter.

Art Connoisseurs in the Louvre was the breakthrough artwork of 25 year-old Berndtson. It crystallized the mastery of brush technique characteristic of the artist as well as elegance. The artwork was a success in the Paris Salon of 1879. Also the domestic audience found it sensational when it was on show at the Finnish Art Society exhibition in Helsinki, soon after its debut in Paris. The Art Society expressed immediately an intention to buy it for its own collection. It has subsequently become a part of the treasures of the National Gallery. They belong to the Finnish state. Berndtson’s painting had, however, already caught the eye of private art collectors as well. Therefore, the art collection of the Minister-Secretary of State for Finland, baron Emil Stjernvall-Walleen was able to include the work in his collection.

Stjernvall-Walleen was a significant official of the Grand Duchy of Finland at the court in St. Petersburg. In addition, he had kept his friendly relations with the Russian Tsar Alexander II. He had established this association during the time spend he in the army. The unmarried Minister-Secretary of State relocated permanently to Helsinki in his old days to live with his sister Aurora Karamzin.

Through Aurora Karamzin, the Linder family living at Kytäjä Manor had an access to Gunnar Berndtson’s painting Art Connoisseurs in the Louvre. This realised because Aurora’s foster child, niece Marie, married the estate owner Constantin Linder. Marie was the daughter of Aurora’s sister who died young. The Linders’ daughter Emilie took the painting with her when she married Major General Kasten De Pont.

It has been reported that the painting has subsequently decorated the salons of governor’s residencies. This is due to the fact that De Pont was at first nominated governor of the province of Uusimaa after his military career. Subsequently he was the govenor of the the province of Vaasa. Mrs Emilie De Pont was widowed in 1929. Like many other widows of the established classes, she also had to sell assets of value. This way, the painting they originally acquired for the collection of Finnish Art Society found its way to the collection of Gösta Serlachius in Mänttä. Ever since that time it has been one of the most loved collection items of the Art Museum. The museum opened it door to the public in 1945 in Joenniemi Manor.

Tarja Talvitie
Head of Collections

Gunnar Berndtson, Art Connoisseurs in the Louvre.
Gunnar Berndtson, Art Connoisseurs in the Louvre., 1879, oil on panel, Gösta Serlachius Fine Arts Foundation. Photo: Vesa Aaltonen.