Pale Maiden (Marjatta)

Artist(s):Wäinö Aaltonen Date:1934 Medium:gold-plated plaster Dimensions:ht. 63.5 cm

The Pale Maiden is also known as bronzes in two sizes. The piece in the University’s art collection is made from gold-plated plaster in the larger size. For years, even decades, Aaltonen developed, changed and perfected the motif to create a simple, unified line, also in drawings and paintings. The figure of a standing young woman raising her hands in a supplicant gesture is reminiscent of the Marjatta motif from Kalevala, a mother who raises her baby up in the air. Art critic Ludvig Wennervirta reviewed Aaltonen’s exhibition at Salon Strindberg in 1936 and analysed it as follows: “Aaltonen has also sculpted this pale maiden in bronze: she stands with one arm raised in the air and the other resting on her head. The piece is beautifully sculpted, the details not too strongly accentuated. […] I would suggest that the image of ‘Marjatta’ has been developed from pieces depicting the pale maiden.” The pale maiden motif originates in a folk tale recounted in the novel Seven Brothers by Aleksis Kivi (1873); Aaltonen was at the time also working on a memorial statue of Kivi, which was unveiled on Helsinki Railway Square in 1939. In this sketch-like version, the pale prisoner of a mountain troll reaches towards the sky, missing her fiancé. The bronze version of Pale Maiden that was commissioned by the Nordic Association Bank in 1949 and mounted two years later in their banking hall in Helsinki stands 2.5 metres tall. Mutual Life Insurance Company Suomi commissioned a two-metre bronze statue of Marjatta in 1936 and diorite versions of both motifs in 1951. Aaltonen fitted the theme of the last canto of Kalevala to the generalised and idealistic Madonna and Child iconography.

Wäinö Aaltonen (1894–1966) was born in Turku and studied at the Drawing School of Turku Art Society in 1910–1915. He learned the techniques and practices of sculpture at the studio of his kinsman Aarre Aaltonen. Making his debut in 1916, he first joined the modernists in Turku and showed his works together with the Expressionist artists’ association November Group. His large body of public works includes Genius Guides Youth (1958–1960), a fountain sculpture on the main square of Yliopistonmäki (University Hill) in Turku, which was unveiled in 1961. The bronze head of Aleksis Kivi (based on the Kivi Memorial in Helsinki Railway Square) was erected by the Aleksis Kivi Society of Turku and the City of Turku and stood in front of the University’s Phoenix building in 1949–1959. Today, it can be found in front of the City Theatre.

Tutta Palin 2024

Kupias, Eila. Veistoksia Turussa – Statyer i Åbo – Sculptures in Turku. Turku: Wäinö Aaltonen Museum of Art / City of Turku, 1989.

L. W. [Ludvig Wennervirta]. “Wäinö Aaltosen kuvanveistonäyttely.” Ajan Suunta, 29 February 1936.

Pfäffli, Heidi and Heikki Ahvenjärvi. “Teosluettelo.” Wäinö Aaltonen 1894–1966, ed. Heidi Pfäffli, 96–312. Turku: Wäinö Aaltonen Museum of Art, 1994.

Takanen, Ringa. “From The Wader to the Garden of My Home: Mythical Female Figures and Water in Wäinö Aaltonen’s Works.” Wäinö Aaltonen: Poses, eds Elina Ovaska, Marjo Aurekoski-Turjas and Riitta Kormano, 148–159. English transl. Grano Oy / Multidoc. The Yearbook ABOA of the Museum Centre of Turku 2015 / 79. Turku: Museum Centre of Turku, 2017.