Albert Edelfelt, View of Copenhagen III, sketch, 1890

To the collections of the Gösta Serlachius Fine Arts Foundation belongs the sketch View of Copenhagen III made by Albert Edelfelt in 1890. In the work we see two seamen leaning against the rail of the frigate The Sjaelland, and in the background there is the wavering flag of Denmark called the Dannebrog. The birth history of the painting, however, leads us to St. Petersburg and tells of Edelfelt’s networking with the Court of the Russian Czar. 

Albert Edelfelt spent time with his friends in St. Petersburg both before and after the New Year of 1881–1882. In the last days of December 1881, Edelfelt was introduced to Maria Feodorovna, the spouse of Czar Alexander III of Russia. The Empress had become infatuated with the portraits made of the sons of her brother-in-law, Vladimir Alexandrovich, and wanted Edelfelt to paint portraits of her own children Grand Duke Mikhail and Grand Duchess Xenia. The portrait showing the children of the Czar’s family was completed in February 1882.

At the end of the decade, the paths of the artist and the Czar’s family crossed again – this time in Copenhagen. Edelfelt got to meet the ruling couple and showed them the sketches of two works describing the port of Copenhagen. The Imperial Couple liked both sketches and on the basis of them wanted to order larger versions, one for each of them.

Copenhagen was a city that especially the Empress knew well, since she had been born as Princess Dagmar of Denmark. The Empress didn’t approve of Edelfelt’s first version of the View of Copenhagen I (1890), so the artist painted another version of the motif. In the Empress’s painting, the sea is glittering in the sun, and in the background, you can see the outline of Copenhagen.

The View of Copenhagen III (1890), which the Emperor ordered, was the third painting made of the same motif. In contrast to the Empress’s painting, the composition of this work opens up a view of the sea, and at the centre you discern the Emperor’s yacht Deryava, which you recognize by its two-headed eagle and the blue and white flag of the Russian Navy.

As to its composition, View of Copenhagen III does not differ in any essential way from the sketch belonging to the collections of Gösta Serlachius Fine Arts Foundation. On the other hand, in the lower left corner of the sketch, as an interesting detail you can discern the dedication of the artist: ”Till Emile Cedercreutz från hans gamle vän A.EDELFELT 1890.”

The person in question is the artist’s contemporary and friend of his youth, Baron Emile “Mille” Cedercreutz, who at the beginning of the 1870ies lived in Edelfelt’s childhood home. Mille later became a physician.

View of Copenhagen III (1890) which the Czar of Russia ordered is hanging in the Presidential Palace in Helsinki and can be seen only by the few. It’s possible to acquaint yourself with the sketch that preceded the painting at the Serlachius Museum Gösta’s exhibition Classic Works of Fine Art at the Manor.

Suvi-Mari Eteläinen

Albert Edelfelt 1854–1905. Ed. Leena Ahtola-Moorhouse. Ateneum, Helsinki 2005.
Albert Edelfelt och Ryssland. Brev från åren 1875–1905. Utgivna av Rainer Knapas och Maria Vainio. Svenska Litteratursällskapet i Finland, Helsingfors 2004.
Hintze, Bertel, Albert Edelfelt. Del II: 1888–1905. Söderström, Helsingfors 1944.
Niin kutsuttu sydämeni. Albert Edelfeltin kirjeitä äidilleen 1873–1901. Ed. Anna Kortelainen. Otava, Helsinki 2001.

Albert Edelfelt, Kööpenhaminan ankkuripaikalta III, 1890, öljyväri kankaalle, Gösta Serlachiuksen taidesäätiö. Kuva: Tomi Aho
Albert Edelfelt, Kööpenhaminan ankkuripaikalta III, 1890, öljyväri kankaalle, Gösta Serlachiuksen taidesäätiö. Kuva: Tomi Aho