Thorfinn Karlsefni (1918)

by Einar Jonsson (1874 - 1954)

Photo Caption: Photo © 2004 Association for Public Art
Kelly Drive north of Boathouse Row
1918

  • Title

    Thorfinn Karlsefni

  • Artist

    Einar Jonsson (1874 - 1954)

  • Year

    1918; installed 1920

  • Medium

    Bronze, on granite base

  • Dimensions

    Height 7’4″, width 4'6", depth 4' (base height 5’7″, width 12', depth 12')

Commissioned by Fairmount Park Art Association (now the Association for Public Art) and J. Bunford Samuel

Owned by the City of Philadelphia


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At A Glance

  • Part of the Museum Without Walls™: AUDIO program

  • The first of a series of sculptures on Kelly Drive, known as the Samuel Memorial, that interpret the history of America

  • Thorfinn Karlsefni was an Icelandic hero said to have visited America’s shores as early as 1004

  • Einar Jonsson captured the Viking spirit, conveying how Thorfinn might have appeared since no known images exist

Einar Jonsson captured the Viking spirit, conveying how Thorfinn might have appeared since no known images exist.

A bequest by Ellen Phillips Samuel to the Fairmount Park Art Association (now the Association for Public Art) provided the funds for the Ellen Phillips Samuel Memorial. In the same spirit, her widowed husband, J. Bunford Samuel, commissioned a sculpture of the Icelandic hero, Thorfinn Karlsefni. Karlsefni was said to have visited America’s shores as early as 1004. However, little is known of him except what is recorded in the “Saga of Eric the Red.”

Samuel invited noted Icelandic artist, Einar Jonsson, to create the sculpture. He was brought to Philadelphia with his wife at the onset of World War I to work on this idealized portrait of the explorer. Einar Jonsson captured the Viking spirit, conveying how Thorfinn might have appeared since no known images exist. The statue was unveiled on November 20, 1920, near the site that was designated for the Samuel Memorial.

Adapted from Public Art in Philadelphia by Penny Balkin Bach (Temple University Press, Philadelphia, 1992).

Detail of the shield of the sculpture of Thorfinn Karlsefni
Photo Caitlin Martin © 2010 for the Association for Public Art

 

RESOURCES

Museum Without Walls logo: a program of the Association for Public Art

 

Voices heard in the program:

Suzanne Sheehan Becker is a leadership and fundraising consultant.

Juliana Gottskalksdottir is Director of the Einar Jonsson Museum in Reykjavik, Iceland.

Thor Heyerdahl, Jr. is Director of the Kon Tiki Museum, Norway and son of explorer Thor Heyerdahl, Sr.

Segment Producer: Ann Heppermann

A program of the Association for Public Art (formerly the Fairmount Park Art Association), Museum Without Walls™: AUDIO is an innovative and accessible outdoor sculpture audio program for Philadelphia’s preeminent collection of public art.

User calls Museum Without Walls Audio for Robert Indiana's LOVE sculpture
Photo Albert Yee © 2010 for the Association for Public Art

A “multi-platform” interactive audio experience – available for free by cell phone, mobile app, audio download, or on the web – Museum Without Walls™: AUDIO offers the unique histories that are not typically expressed on outdoor permanent signage.

Unlike audio tours that have a single authoritative guide or narrator, each speaker featured in Museum Without Walls™: AUDIO is an “authentic voice” – someone who is connected to the sculpture by knowledge, experience, or affiliation. Over 150 unique voices are featured, including artists, educators, scientists, writers, curators, civic leaders, and historians.

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This artwork is part of the Along Kelly Drive tour

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