At A Glance
*Please note that the sculpture is currently not on view as it undergoes conservation treatment
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 Jónsson captured the Viking spirit, conveying how Thorfinn might have appeared since no known images exist
Einar Jónsson 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 Jónsson, 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 Jónsson 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).
Voices heard in the program:
Suzanne Sheehan Becker is a leadership and fundraising consultant.
Juliana Gottskalksdottir is the former Director of the Einar Jónsson 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.
A “multi-platform” interactive audio experience – available for free by cell phone, mobile app, or on our website – 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.
This artwork is part of the Along Kelly Drive tour