Aino Sibelius (1871-1969)

Aino Sibelius was born on August 10th 1871 as the seventh child of governor Alexander Järnefelt and his wife Elisabeth, née Clodt von Jürgensburg. She was born in Hausjärvi where the family was spending their summers. The Järnefelts supported the Finnish language and culture, and their home served as a center for this ideology. Aino’s father’s, Alexander Järnefelt’s goal as a governor, was to make Finnish the language of the intelligentsia. Elisabeth Järnefelt gathered a group of enthusiastic conversationalists around her, first in Helsinki and later in Kuopio. Her ideology was strongly affected by the Tolstoyan movement. From Aino’s brothers, Arvid abandoned his law studies because of the Tolstoyan movement. The ideological and ethical influence of the Tolstoyan movement also shaped Aino’s outlook on life. At home, they painted, played instruments and wrote. Aino’s brothers Kasper, Arvid, Armas and Eero, all became artists.

At home, Aino was raised with emphasis on domestic skills. Elisabeth Järnefelt thought it was important to cherish each child according to their own tendencies and strengths.

Aino Sibelius started in a Finnish girl’s school in Helsinki and continued her studies in Kuopio, where they moved when Alexander Järnefelt was appointed as the governor in 1884. She received her leaving certificate in 1887. She would have liked to continue studying, however, Alexander was appointed as the governor of Vaasa province, and Aino participated in the governor’s housekeeping and in the task of representing.

In Kuopio and Vaasa, Aino went to a woodcraft school. The skills she learned would later play a big role in the building and decorating of her own house. In the woodcraft school, she studied drawing, ornamentation, counting and accounting among other things.

Aino Järnefelt and Jean Sibelius got secretly engaged in 1890 and they were wed on 10th of June 1892 in the summer stay of Järnefelt’s, Tottesund’s mansion near Vaasa. In 1893, their first daughter, Eva, was born. Next year Ruth was born and their third daughter, Kirsti, was born in 1898. Kirsti died in 1900. Katarina Elisbeth was born in 1903. Later, when living in Ainola, the little sweethearts of the family were born, Margareta 1908 and Heidi 1911.


Talented Aino Sibelius played the piano, read a lot of fiction and did a lot of handicrafts from woodwork to embroidery. Correspondence with relatives and friends reveals detailed observations of an active, ethical, relentless, reflective and an analytical person. Raising five daughters was her life’s calling.

Picture: Jean Sibelius, Aino Sibelius and Eero Järnefelt in Ainola. Picture collection of the Finnish National Board of Antiques, CC BY 4.0

Aino Sibelius maintained a close relationship with her childhood family throughout her whole life. Her sisters-in-law became important interlocutors and she followed their children’s growth very closely. Family, friends and acquaintances formed a network, which helped during times of loneliness, sorrow and depression, but also was there to share the times of happiness and joy – as well as the abundant harvests of Ainola.

Aino Sibelius in her garden in the 1940s. Santeri Levas, the Finnish Museum of Photography, CC BY 4.0

After the death of Jean Sibelius, Aino Sibelius still lived in Ainola for 12 more years until her death in 1969.