The Reitz Collection: Finland’s finest art, antiques and arms in an intimate Finnish museum
By Lena Hunter | Photos: The Reitz Collection
The Reitz Collection is an art museum in the former Helsinki home of the influential mid-20th-century constructor Lauri Reitz, whose personal collection of art and antiques comprises some of the most important works in Finnish art history. This valuable entity is continually growing, thanks to ongoing acquisitions by The Reitz Foundation.
Lauri Reitz, born in 1893 in south-eastern Finland, was interested in collecting from a young age and, via his successful construction business, built a swift fortune that allowed him to pursue his passion for art and antiques. Throughout the 1930s, Reitz collected a range of Finnish paintings and antique silver, as well as valuable porcelain, weapons, musical instruments, clocks, books and antique furniture from wider Europe.
“Reitz acquired many pieces from Finnish female artists in the 1920s and ‘30s, which was uncommon. Today, those works are recognized as being some of the best by those artists,” explains Jaana Cawén, chair of The Reitz Foundation. “This was a self-made man, quite avant-garde in his real-estate business, whose instincts for collecting have helped to preserve a remarkable trove of historical art objects.”
A growing collection
The Reitz Foundation, set up by Reitz’s widow in 1971, continually acquires new objects to complement and expand the museum’s collection, and the number of late 19th- and early 20th-century paintings by major Finnish artists has grown fourfold to some 190 works. “We only buy pieces that we consider remarkable in the artist’s production. Over the past few years we have especially been acquiring works by the leading 20th-century artist Helene Schjerfbeck. Today, this collection is one of the most extensive in Finland,” says Cawén.
Equally significant is the museums armoury collection. “We have the most important public collection of European arms in Finland, with some really unique pieces, like a rare example of a chanfron – head armour for a horse – made in Nuremberg in 1515 and commissioned by Prince Radziwiłł,” says Cawén. The timepiece collection includes a magnificent table clock, built in Augsburg in 1640, which is the most important timepiece found in any Finnish museum. It’s one of my favourite objects in the collection,” Cawén adds.
The museum is free to visit Wednesdays 15–18 and Sundays 14–17. For groups over 10 people, private guided tours are free of charge, as per the museum’s goal to spread Finnish cultural knowledge. “Most visitors to the museum find it fascinating to see these seminal historical works in the intimate context of Reitz’s former home,” says Cawén. “Many call it a hidden gem.”
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