Important exhibition for Estonia to be opened in Washington

Michel Sittow. Noormees punase mütsiga. 1490. aastad. Õli, puit. Detroidi Kunstiinstituut, Anne ja Henry Ford II kingitus.

PHOTO: Bridgeman Images

First personal exhibition of Estonian-born artist Michel Sittow (approx. 1469-1525) to be opened in Washington.

A joint exhibition by the National Gallery of Art in Washington and the Art Museum of Estonia titled “Michel Sittow. Estonian Painter at the Courts of Renaissance Europe” to mark the 100th anniversary of the Republic of Estonia will be opened in the US capital on Sunday, January 28.

This is the first time the rare works of Michel Sittow, who was born in Estonia and pursued a successful career as a court painter in Europe, can be seen together at a single exhibition. The show will also feature the 500-year-old wings of the altar of Christ’s Passion.

The exhibition will remain open at the National Gallery of Art until May 13. Sittow’s works can be seen at the KUMU Art Museum of Estonia in Tallinn from June 8.

Michel Sittow was a sought-after painter in European courts around the turn of the 15th and 16th century. His paintings are housed in several renowned museums all over the world: Louvre, Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien, Berlin Gemäldegalerie, American, British, and Danish national galleries etc.

“Michel Sittow is the most famous Estonian-born artist in European art history. It is only natural for the Art Museum of Estonia to organize the exhibition of Sittow’s work and bring his rare works to Tallinn for a brief time. Preparation took five years and was made easier by the National Gallery of Art’s decision to join the exhibition idea and hold it at their museum as well. Displaying Sittow’s work in Estonia is the greatest anniversary gift the museum can give the people of Estonia,” said Director Sirje Helme.

The National Gallery of Art will display most of Sittow’s relatively few surviving works that nevertheless provide a good overview of the artist as a talented portraitist and religious painter. The exhibition will also feature the wings of the altar of Christ’s Passion from the St. Nicholas’ Church Museum in Tallinn attributed to Sittow that are probably the only surviving works by Sittow in Estonia.

The Art Museum of Estonia launched the project five years ago, its aim to display the works of Michel Sittow to both the international and Estonian public to mark the 100th anniversary of the republic.

The exhibition’s curators are John Oliver Hand from the National Gallery of Art and Greta Koppel from the Art Museum of Estonia. A substantial and richly illustrated catalogue covering both exhibitions and born in cooperation of several internationally renowned art historians will be published at the time of the opening of the exhibition in Washington.

Despite the complicated situation created by the partial shutdown of the US government, all scheduled events will go ahead as planned. The exhibition’s press conference will be held at the National Gallery of Art on Tuesday, January 23. Estonian curator Greta Koppel will speak at the EU House in Washington on Thursday, January 25. Koppel’s presentation will introduce Sittow’s career as a travelling court painter in Europe, as well as extensive cooperation between European museums and art historians in organizing the show.

The opening event and reception of the exhibition by the Estonian Embassy in Washington and the Art Museum of Estonia will be held on Saturday, January 27. The National Gallery of Art in Washington will hold several events dedicated to Estonia in spring.