Thorfinn Karlsefni (1918)
Einar Jonsson (1874–1954)

  • Kelly Drive north of Boathouse Row
  • Bronze, on granite base
  • Height 7’4″ (base 5’7″)
  • Initiated by the Fairmount Park Art Association (now the Association for Public Art) and J. Bunford Samuel
  • Owned by the City of Philadelphia

A bequest by Ellen Phillips Samuel provided the funds for the Samuel Memorial Sculpture Garden. In the same spirit, her widowed husband, J. Bunford Samuel, commissioned a sculpture of the Icelandic hero, Thorfinn Karlsefni. Karlsefni was said to have visited America’s shores as early as 1004. However, little is known of him except what is recorded in the saga of Eric the Red.

Samuel invited the Icelandic artist, Einar Jonsson, to create the sculpture. Jonsson was brought to Philadelphia with his wife at the onset of World War I to work on this idealized portrait of the explorer. The statue was unveiled on November 20, 1920, near the site that was designated for the Samuel Memorial.

Adapted from Public Art in Philadelphia by Penny Balkin Bach (Temple University Press, Philadelphia, 1992).


Nearby artworks:

The Pilgrim (1904), Augustus Saint-Gaudens, Kelly Drive near Lemon Hill Drive


Thorfinn Karlsefni

Vimeo Video


Voices heard in the program:


Suzanne Sheehan Becker is a leadership and fundraising consultant.

Juliana Gottskalksdottir is Director of the Einar Jonsson Museum in Reykjavik, Iceland.

Thor Heyerdahl, Jr. is Director of the Kon Tiki Museum, Norway and son of explorer Thor Heyerdahl, Sr.

Segment Producer: Ann Heppermann