Thorfinn Karlsefni (sculpture)

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Thorfinn Karlsefni
Thorfinn Karlsefni 1918.jpg
Artist Einar Jónsson
Dimensions210 cm× 140 cm× 120 cm(84 in× 54 in× 48 in)
Coordinates 39°58′13″N75°11′24″W / 39.9702°N 75.19005°W / 39.9702; -75.19005
OwnerCity of Philadelphia
Fairmount Park Commission

Thorfinn Karlsefni is a bronze statue of Norse explorer Thorfinn Karlsefni, created by Icelandic sculptor Einar Jónsson. The first casting was located in Fairmount Park in Philadelphia, United States, before being toppled by vandals in 2018. A second casting of the statue is in Reykjavík, Iceland, and the original plaster model is located in the Einar Jónsson Museum.



The artwork was commissioned by Joseph Bunford Samuel through a bequest that his wife, Ellen Phillips Samuel, made to the Fairmount Park Art Association, [1] specifying that the funds were to be used to create a series of sculptures "emblematic of the history of America." [2] The statue was installed along Philadelphia's Kelly Drive, near Turtle Rock Light, and unveiled on November 20, 1920. [3] The artwork was one of 51 sculptures included in the Association for Public Art's Museum Without Walls: AUDIO™ interpretive audio program for Philadelphia's outdoor sculpture. [4]

Protests and vandalism

By the 21st century, the statue had become a common rallying location for local white supremacy groups. In time, these rallies led to counter protests and vandalism of the statue. [5] [6] In the early morning hours of October 2, 2018, police were called to the statue's location and found it had been toppled from its stone base, which broke the head from the body, after which it was dragged into the nearby Schuylkill River. During recovery, a crane was needed to remove the statue, which weighs several thousand pounds, from the river. [7] [8]

As of 2020, the statue was being conserved, but the City of Philadelphia had no timeline for its reinstallation and was taking the appropriation of the statue by hate groups into consideration as it made plans for the future. [9]


External audio
Nuvola apps arts.svg Thorfinn Karlsefni (1915–1918), Association for Public Art, Audio only (
Reykjavik version of the statue (
64deg08'54''N 21deg52'03''W / 64.14833degN 21.86751degW / 64.14833; -21.86751 (Thorfinn Karlsefni (sculpture) Reykjavik, Iceland)) Statue by Einar Jonsson created 1915-1918 of Thorfinn Karlsefni.jpg
Reykjavík version of the statue ( 64°08′54″N21°52′03″W / 64.14833°N 21.86751°W / 64.14833; -21.86751 (Thorfinn Karlsefni (sculpture) Reykjavík, Iceland) )

The inscriptions formerly read:

Sculpture, lower proper left:
Einar Jonsson

On back of Karlsefni's shield: Icelandic verse:
From the island of the North, of ice and snow,
Of blossoming valleys and blue mountains,
Of the midnight sun and the dreamy mists,
The home of the goddess of northern lights.

Base, front:
Thorfinn Karlsefni

Base, front plaque:
Following Leif Ericson's Discovery of
North America in 1003, Thorfinn Karlsefni
with 165 men and 35 women established a
settlement which lasted for 3 years and
his son Snorri was born in North America
Leif Ericson Society of Pennsylvania
Scandinavian Craft Club of Philadelphia
October 9, 1974

See also

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  1. "Full text of "The Icelander Thorfinn Karlsefni who Visited the Western Hemisphere in 1007"" . Retrieved 2015-03-03.
  2. "Ellen Phillips Samuel Memorial Sculpture Garden | Association for Public Art". 2014-06-20. Retrieved 2015-03-03.
  3. "Interactive Art Map | Thorfinn Karlsefni | Association for Public Art". 1920-11-20. Retrieved 2015-03-03.
  4. "Museum Without Walls: Thorfinn Karlsefni". Fairmount Park Art Association. Archived from the original on October 19, 2010. Retrieved August 5, 2023.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  5. Bender, William (October 18, 2013). "Skinheads, protesters headed to Fairmount Park". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Philadelphia. Archived from the original on July 20, 2020. Retrieved January 2, 2023.
  6. Theodórsdóttir, Emma (2021). "Entangled Duality of a Viking Statue: Þorfinnur Karlsefni". The After Monument. Design Academy Eindhoven (Information Design Masters program). Retrieved January 2, 2023.
  7. Stamm, Dan (October 2, 2018). "Philly's Thorfinn Karlsefni Statue Toppled Into Schuylkill River". NBC10 Philadelphia. Philadelphia. Retrieved January 2, 2023.
  8. Newhouse, Sam (October 2, 2018). "Viking statue turned 'flashpoint' between skinheads and Antifa toppled into Schuylkill River". Metro . Philadelphia. Retrieved January 2, 2023.
  9. Thompson, Gary (January 30, 2020). "Where is the toppled Boathouse Row Viking statue?". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Philadelphia. Archived from the original on January 30, 2020. Retrieved January 2, 2023.
  10. "Thorfinn Karlsefni, (sculpture)". 1974-10-09. Retrieved 2015-03-03.