Michel Sittow in the North? Altarpieces in Dialogue

The research and exhibition project of the Art Museum of Estonia and Hälsinglands Museum focuses on two masterpieces of the Late Middle Ages: the Tallinn Passion Altarpiece and the Bollnäs Holy Kinship Altarpiece in Sweden.

In art history, both altarpieces are associated with Michel Sittow (ca 1469–1525), an internationally renowned artist who was born in Tallinn (Reval). He was trained in the school of Netherlandish art in Bruges, worked as a painter at the various courts in Europe and was active in Tallinn as artist for fifteen years. The paintings on the outer wings of the Passion Altarpiece, which are attributed to Michel Sittow, are very similar in style to those on the Holy Kinship altarpiece in Bollnäs. Based on the history of the Passion altarpiece and art historical comparision, it has been assumed that the Bollnäs altarpiece was produced in Michel Sittow’s workshop in Tallinn.

The research project therefore also focuses on the issue of Tallinn as a late medieval art center and the local art production in the context of the Baltic Sea region through the revision of both preserved works of art and archival sources. In co-operation with an international group of researchers, a new look is taken at the possible works of art of Tallinn origin, the archival sources of the time, as well as the possible works of Michel Sittow’s Tallinn studio. The project also strongly highlights artistic, social and trade connections, networks and routes connected with those two works of art.

The focus of the research is also on the continuing biography of works of art, i.e. objects, from the beginning of their completion to the present day. The project is to conduct a broader examination of the changing meaning and place of medieval sacral art in today’s world. In addition to art history, the examination of the works will also focus on the preservation of heritage and the shared responsibility of museums and churches in preserving sacral art.

During the multi-year project, comparative art historical and technical research will be conducted on the works of art. The altarpieces will be brought together during two exhibitions: in autumn 2022 at the Niguliste Museum in Tallinn, and in spring 2023 at the Hälsingland Museum in Sweden. The exhibition will be accompanied by two international conferences. The results of the project will be published in an exhibition catalogue and in an anthology. The participants in the international project include Estonian, Swedish, Finnish and German specialists, and several institutions, as well as well-known Netherlandish art experts.

Exhibitions

Tallinn exhibition from September 2022 to February 2023
Hudiksvall exhibition from March 2023 to June 2023

Publications

Exhibition catalogue 2022 (Estonian-English) and 2023 (Swedish-English)
Anthology (richly illustrated book that brings together the art historical results of the project) 2024

Conferences and Seminars

Tallinn Conference Autumn 2022
Hudiksvall Seminar Spring 2023

Project Coordinators

Art Museum of Estonia
Hälsinglands Museum, Sweden

Partners

The Church of Sweden
Swedish History Museum
Uppsala University
Helsinki University
Complutence University of Madrid
Cortes Tardogóticas