Symposium “Stories of Michel Sittow’s Life and Art. Facts and Fables”
International symposium at the Kumu Art Museum (Tallinn)
14–15 September, 2018
The life and art of Michel Sittow (ca 1469–1525) is mostly unknown territory. There are fragments of information in the documents from Sittow’s life time scattered in archives across Europe (Spain, France, Germany, Estonia etc.) and a number of paintings, also scattered across the world, that are believed to be by him. Very few of the works can be attributed to the artist with confidence; there are no signed works and the majority of the works mentioned in documents have not survived.
The artist, who once enjoyed the patronage of Europe’s greatest rulers and had a successful international career as a court painter, vanished into oblivion for centuries. The identity of “a phantom artist” whose name appeared in documents from different countries in various forms, such as Melchior Alemán, Michiel Flamenco, Miguel Zittoz, Michel Sittau, Meister Michiel etc., and was considered most likely to be of Netherlandish origin, was recovered by the historian Paul Johansen from the documents in Lubeck and the Tallinn City Archives only in 1940. Since then there have been attempts to reconstruct his life and work. The first monograph of Sittow (1976) discussed 59 works connected to the artist, but only half were regarded as authentic. An even more drastic revision of Sittow’s oeuvre was provided in 2011 by Matthias Weniger, whose catalogue raisonné includes 111 works of art, but confirms only 13 paintings as definite. The artist’s activities were connected to very different environments: he worked as an artist at the courts of Renaissance Europe and as an artisan (and an alderman of a guild) in the Late Medieval Hanseatic merchant town of Reval, and therefore the works he produced and that were ascribed to him here and there were of very different character. There are many different stories, conflicting attributions and very little hard evidence, but still there are apparently honest and plausible explanations.
The symposium lectures and discussions treat verifiable facts, present technical documentation of Sittow’s definite works in comparison to the detailed presentations of works attributed to the artist based on stylistic analyses. How can we interpret the fragments of material evidence? The symposium that accompanies the first monographic exhibition of the artist aims to take a new look at this artist and to promote interest in future studies.
We look forward to welcoming you to autumn in Tallinn!
Curator of the exhibition Michel Sittow. Estonian Painter at the Courts of Renaissance Europe
Art Museum of Estonia
Friday, 14 September
09.30–10.00 Registration with coffee
10.00–10.05 Welcome by Dr. Sirje Helme (director of the Art Museum of Estonia) and Kadi Polli (director of the Kumu Art Museum)
10.05–10.15 Introduction to the symposium by Greta Koppel (Art Museum of Estonia)
10.15–10.45 Michel Sittow and Northern Renaissance Portraiture
Till-Holger Borchert (Musea Bruges)
10.45–11.15 What we know (and don’t know) about Sittow’s Berlin-Washington diptych
Dr. John Oliver Hand (National Gallery of Art, Washington DC)
11.30–12.00 Coffee and tea in the Kumu lobby
12.00–12.30 Michel Sittow’s Portrait of a Man in the Mauritshuis. Aspects of Provenance and Attribution
Ariane van Suchtelen (The Mauritshuis in The Hague)
12.30–13.00 The Riddle of Michel Sittow’s Art. Certainties and Uncertainties in the Reconstruction of
Greta Koppel (Art Museum of Estonia)
13.00–15.00 Lunch, and free time to visit the exhibition Michel Sittow. Estonian Painter at the
Courts of Renaissance Europe, and the Kumu collection
15.00–15.30 Michel Sittow reconsidered. The consequences of the 2018 exhibition
Dr. Matthias Weniger (Bayerisches Nationalmuseum in Munich)
15.30–16.30 Discussion Exhibition in Focus
John Hand, Greta Koppel, Matthias Weniger, Till-Holger Borchert, Peter van den Brink
… and the audience.
Saturday, 15 September
09.00–10.00 Registration with coffee / Private view of the exhibition (before the museum opens)
10.00–10.50 Michel Sittow’s portrait of Christian II of Denmark. Its genesis and history.
Technical research by Troels Filtenborg (National Gallery of Denmark)
History and documentation by Hanne Kolind Poulsen (National Gallery of Denmark)
10.50–11.20 Michel Sittow, the art production and art trade in Tallinn in the late 15th and the first quarter of the 16th centuries
Dr. Anu Mänd (Tallinn University)
11.20–11.45 Conservation of the Outer Wings of the Passion Altarpiece. Defining the “Sittow layer”
Dr. Hilkka Hiiop (Estonian Academy of Arts)
Johanna Lamp (Art Museum of Estonia)
11.45–12.15 Coffee and tea in the Kumu lobby
12.15–13.30 Panel Discussion: Focus on Sittow’s art
Characteristics of Sittow’s artistic “handwriting”, development of Sittow’s style (can it be (re-) constructed?), the phantom artist, and an up-close and personal view of Sittow’s works
Till-Holger Borchert, Troels Filtenborg, John Hand, Matthias Weniger, Peter van den Brink and Ariane van Suchtelen
14.30 Bus leaves from the Kumu parking lot for the Old Town for the excursion On the Trails of Sittow in the Old Town by Dr Juhan Kreem (Tallinn City Archive). Participation in the excursion with prior registration.
16.00 Visit to the Niguliste Museum; welcomed by Tarmo Saaret (director of the Niguliste Museum)
There is no participation fee, but participants are expected to cover their transportation and accommodation costs, as well as lunches and dinners.
Prior registration is required of all participants.
Please use the online registration form.
Registration is open until 1 September 2018, or as long as there are places available.