A face from the past

Resusci Anne is resting in the collection facility of the Helsinki University Museum, protected by dust covers. Anne bears the likeness of a beautiful, youngish woman with golden blonde hair and a blue-and-white tracksuit. Her eyes are closed and her mouth is slightly open. The manikin, its carrying case and other equipment for practising resuscitation were donated to the University Museum by the museum committee of Pitkäniemi Hospital in 2012. Pitkäniemi, Finland’s fourth oldest psychiatric hospital, is still operational today.

Used for practising cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), Resusci Anne is a remarkably realistic looking manikin, developed by the Norwegians Åsmund Lærdal and Björn Lind and the Austrian Peter Safar. The manikin was first presented in 1961 at the First International Symposium on Resuscitation in Stavanger, Norway. The face of the manikin is based on L’Inconnue de la Seine, a plaster cast death mask of an unidentified woman reputedly drowned in the River Seine in the 19th century.

The upper body of Resusci Anne, wearing a tracksuit, viewed from the head of the manikin.
Unlike the plaster cast on which the manikin is modelled, Resusci Anne has her mouth slightly open – for the purposes of practising CPR – and is not smiling enigmatically. Photo: Helsinki University Museum / Anna Luhtala.

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He turned out to be a she!

The University of Helsinki Art Room holds an impressive collection of drawings, but the identity of some of the artists is not known. The signatures, if any, may be unclear, and notes made on the drawings may sometimes be misleading.

As I was cataloguing the drawings in our database and conducting online searches to establish the identity of the artists, I came across a skilled drawing entitled Portrait of a Young Woman, which showed the profile of a woman, from a slightly downward angle, with her hair in a bun and wearing a check shirt. At the bottom of the paper was the name Onni Bäckström, while at the top were the initials F. A. followed by ‘April 93’. Based on what I saw, I immediately assumed that the artist was a male student called Onni Bäckström. The initials at the top were of the person who had approved the work: Fredrik Ahlstedt, a teacher at the Art Room.

Drawing of a woman with a check shirt and hair in a bun, halv figure, profile.
Onni Bäckström’s drawing Portrait of a Young Woman, 1893. University of Helsinki art collection. Photo: Helsinki University Museum / Pia Vuorikoski.

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