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An Estonian Painter in the Courts of Europe: European Cooperation and Connections During the Early Modern Period

  • Delegation of the European Union to the United States 2175 K Street Northwest Washington, DC, 20037 United States (map)

For the first time in Washington, the works of Estonian artist Michel Sittow will be on view at National Gallery of Art, courtesy of National Gallery of Art, Washington, and the Art Museum of Estonia.

This event will feature Estonian curator Greta Koppel who will tell us the inside story of this painter's life and his peripatetic career in Early Modern Europe. She will also discuss how this exhibit was created from his art that normally resides in public and private collections throughout Europe and the U.S.

Michel Sittow (1469-1525) was a painter from Estonia who became a highly valued and sought-after artist in European courts at the turn of the 15th and 16th centuries. His identity as well as career as an artist were truly pan-European. Sittow was born in Tallinn (then Reval), where he probably received his earliest training in art from his father Clawes van der Sittow, who himself was a distinguished painter and wood carver. At the time Tallinn was an International port city, Michel's father had moved to the city from Mecklenburg (Germany) and his mother was of Finnish-Swedish origin.

From 1484 to ca 1488, Sittow was trained in arts in Bruges in Flanders, at the time the artistic centre of the Netherlands, in the studio of the famous Hans Memling. There he mastered the illusionistic painting technique that was characteristic of the Dutch School, and at the time admired all over Europe.

As an itinerant artist he travelled around the royal courts of Europe and was highly prized by rulers such as Queen Isabelle of Castile and the Archduchess Margaret of Austria, yet he did not lose contact with his home city.