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Michel Sittow: Estonian Painter at the Courts of Renaissance Europe
January 28 – May 13, 2018
West Building, Main Floor

Michel Sittow, Mary Rose Tudor (1496-1533), Sister of Henry VIII of England, c. 1514, oil on panel, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Gemäldegalerie, Vienna

Considered Estonia's greatest Renaissance artist, Michel Sittow (c. 1469–1525) was sought after by the renowned European courts of his day, including those of King Ferdinand of Aragón and Queen Isabella of Castile, Margaret of Austria, and Christian II of Denmark. Celebrating the centennial of the establishment of the Republic of Estonia, Michel Sittow: Estonian Painter at the Courts of Renaissance Europe provides an exceptional opportunity to examine the rare and masterful works attributed to Sittow. The exhibition explores the artist's possible collaboration with Juan de Flandes (1460–1519), his relationship with his Netherlandish contemporaries, and the influence of his likely teacher, Hans Memling (active c. 1465–1494).

Michel Sittow: Estonian Painter at the Courts of Renaissance Europe is the first monographic exhibition devoted to the artist. The exhibition includes some 20 paintings from American and European collections, including 13 paintings by Sittow, as well as works by Juan de Flandes, Hans Memling, and Jan Gossaert that provide a context for understanding Sittow's achievement.

Among the highlights are The Assumption of the Virgin (c. 1500/1504, National Gallery of Art, Washington) and The Ascension of Christ (c. 1500/1504, private collection), the only two securely documented works by Sittow. Commissioned by Queen Isabella of Castile, they were among 47 panels of an altarpiece dedicated to the life of Christ and the Virgin Mary. After Isabella's death in 1504, 32 of these panels, including these two and The Temptation of Christ (c. 1500/1504, National Gallery of Art, Washington) by Juan de Flandes, entered the collection of Archduchess Margaret of Austria.

Also included is the Portrait of the Danish King Christian II (1514/1515, Statens Museum for Kunst, Copenhagen), one of the few works by Sittow that is both firmly dated and in which the sitter’s identity is confirmed; x-rays reveal another portrait, possibly of Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, underneath the painting, demonstrating Sittow’s reuse of panels. The exhibition also reunites two panels originally hinged together to form the devotional diptych—Madonna and Child (c. 1515/1518, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin) and Portrait of Diego de Guevara (?) (c. 1515/1518, National Gallery of Art, Washington). Other highlights include Portrait of a Man (c. 1510, Mauritshuis, The Hague), as well as a portrait linked to the Tudor court in England: Mary Rose Tudor (1496–1533), Sister of Henry VIII of England (c. 1514, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna), previously known as a portrait of Catherine of Aragón, and recently re-identified as the youngest sister of Henry VIII.

The exhibition is curated by John Oliver Hand, curator of Northern Renaissance paintings, National Gallery of Art, Washington, and Greta Koppel, curator of Dutch and Flemish art, Art Museum of Estonia, Tallinn.


Organization: Organized by the National Gallery of Art, Washington, and the Art Museum of Estonia, Tallinn

Sponsors: The exhibition in Washington is supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities

Passes: Admission is always free and passes are not required

Other venues: Art Museum of Estonia - Kumu Art Museum, Tallinn, June 8–September 16, 2018

About the Artist

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LectureIntroduction to the Exhibition—Michel Sittow: Estonian Painter at the Courts of Renaissance Europe
March 11 at 2:00
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ConcertHeinavanker Ensemble
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