Above: The President of the Republic Sauli Niinistö and his wife Jenni Haukio admire the statue along with the sculptor Andrei Kovalchuk. The statue was unveiled on Friday and depicts the historic meeting between the Russian Tsar Alexander I and the Swedish Crown Prince Karl Johan in Turku in August 1812. Photos: Arto Takala
Alexander I and Karl Johan meet again by the River Aura
This month marks the two-hundredth year since the Russian Tsar Alexander I and the Swedish Crown Prince Karl Johan met at the Governor’s House in Turku, close to the current main library. Russia sought Swedish support in their fight against Napoleon. Sweden agreed and allied with Russia in return for receiving Russian support for their plans to invade Norway.
To commemorate this meeting an artwork called A Meeting in Turku in 1812 has been set by the River Aura. It was realised in cooperation with Turku's Russian Consulate and the City of Turku. Although the meeting of Alexander I and the Swedish Crown Prince Karl Johan concentrated on power policy issues on a European level, it was also important in shaping the history of Finland and Turku. Importantly for regional disputes involving the Nordic countries, Sweden gave up its territorial claims to Finland.
The Russian sculptor Andrey Kovalchuk (born 1959, Андрей Ковальчук) created the statue to remind the present generation of this internationally important political event. Kovalchuk is the President of the Society of Russian Sculptors and has specialised in depicting historical figures in bronze statues. Kovalchuk’s sculptures and monuments can be seen throughout Russia. There is also one of his works in Mariehamn, depicting the Empress Maria Alexandrovna, which was erected to commemorate the city's 150th anniversary in 2011, Mariehamn is named after the Empress.
Dialogue on several levels
Although Andrei Kovalchuk's sculpture is an interpretation of an historical event, it has nevertheless been created so that it uses the artist's freedom and creative imagination. The artwork intentionally stretches the boundaries between a monument and a memorial in its visual presentation. It is a work of art that depicts a single event, while simultaneously referring to different "time-spaces". At the time of the meeting in 1812, Sweden's Crown Prince had already left the French army, but in the statue he is shown wearing a French Marshall's uniform. Political issues were most probably resolved behind closed doors, but the statue stands on a riverbank in the shade of the trees in the midst of townspeople.
The artist tells himself says that he wanted to place these prominent people from the power politics of the 1800s amongst the people of today in order to increase our interest in history. Thus, instead of setting the statue high on a plinth, it has been placed at street level to make its overall atmosphere more human and intimate. In addition, the central part of the sculpture is Bernadotte’s chair, which depicts his military past and his status. The artist says that he wants to attract passersbys to sit amongst blue-blood European royalty and maybe to picture themselves there. In this way, the artwork creates a dialogue between the people of the present and turning points in history.
With the unveiling of the sculpture A Meeting in Turku in 1812 the Museum Centre of Turku added its 88th outdoor sculpture or work of environmental art to the City of Turku’s collection of art in an urban space.
Tapaaminen Turussa 1812 (A Meeting in Turku in 1812)
Unveiled 24 August, 2012
Location: Läntinen Rantakatu 1, Turku
|Above: The President of the Republic Sauli Niinistö and his wife Jenni Haukio follow the unveiling of the statue together with the Mayor of the City of Turku Aleksi Randell and his wife Johanna Lukola-Randell, and the Chair of the Board of the City of Turku Minna Arve.|
|Above: The creator of the statue: award-winning sculptor Andrey Kovalchuk.|
|Above: Turku University Students' Double Quartet Choir performed at the celebrations.|