Sittow, Michel
Netherlandish, c. 1469 - 1525/1526
Sithium, Miguel , Zittoz, Miguel , Sithium, Michiel , Sittow, Michiel

Biography

Michel Sittow was born about 1469 of German-Scandinavian stock in the Hanseatic port city of Reval, now Tallinn, in Estonia. He probably received his earliest training in Reval from his father, also a painter, yet his apprenticeship in Bruges and years of work for Queen Isabel of Castile and for allied courts gave his art a Flemish and cosmopolitan flavor.

Sittow began his apprenticeship in Bruges about 1484. The assumption that he studied with Memling rests only on that artist's position as the leading painter in Bruges and on Sittow's use of Memling's Madonna types. Sittow's apprenticeship would have ended about 1488. He did not register as a master with the Bruges guild and his whereabouts are unknown before 1492 when he entered the service of Isabel the Catholic. Sittow appears to have been identical with the painter "Melchoior Aleman" also mentioned in Isabel's household accounts.

At the Spanish court he was prized as a portrait painter. He is known to have collaborated with Juan de Flandes on the series of small panels of the lives of Christ and the Virgin for Isabel. While he remained in Isabel's service until her death in 1504, he was apparently absent from Spain after late 1502. Suggestions that he visited the courts of Margaret of Austria and Henry VII of England shortly after 1502 cannot be substantiated. He was in Brabant at the end of 1505 or early in 1506, working for Philip the Fair. He returned to Reval in 1506 to settle his inheritance and remained there, receiving membership in the artists' guild late in 1507 and marrying in 1509. He was called away from Reval in 1514 to paint the portrait of Christian II of Denmark, the future husband of Margaret of Austria's niece, Isabella. Sittow then began a second, shorter period of service at the court of Margaret of Austria and her nephew Charles V in the Netherlands. This was interrupted by a brief trip to Spain to negotiate the salary still owed him. By 13 July 1518, when he married again, Sittow was back in Reval. He lived there, a prosperous and respected citizen, until his death between 20 December 1525 and 20 January 1526. [This is an edited version of the artist's biography published, or to be published, in the NGA Systematic Catalogue]

Bibliography

1915
Friedländer, Max J. "Ein neu erworbenes Madonnenbild im Kaiser-Friedrich-Museum." Amtliche Berichte aus den königl. Kunstsammlungen 36 (1915): cols. 177-183.
1929
Friedländer, Max J. "Neues über den Meister Michiel und Juan de Flandes." Der Cicerone 21 (1929): 249-254.
1940
Johansen, Paul. "Meister Michel Sittow, Hofmaler der Königin Isabella von Kastilien und Bürger von Reval." Jahrbuch der königlich Preussischen Kunstsammlungen (Jahrbuch der Berliner Museen) 61 (1940): 1-36.
1976
Trizna, Jazeps. Primitifs flamands. Contributions. Michel Sittow, peintre revalais de l'école brugeoise (1468-1525/1526). Brussels, 1976.
1986
Hand, John Oliver and Martha Wolff. Early Netherlandish Painting. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. Washington, D.C., 1986: 228.

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