North-south cultural dialogue in Early Modern Europe: The case of the court painter Michel Sittow (c. 1468–1525)

20.12.2022 | 20.12.2022

Dr. Oskar J. Rojewski, University of Silesia in Katowice – University Rey Juan Carlos

The 15th and the beginning of the 16th century were pivotal periods in European history due to crucial discoveries and new mindsets about reality as a geographical and anthropological environment. One revolutionary aspect of Early Modern art was the spread of technical abilities to make realistic portraiture popular among European elites, reinforcing their identity and social status. An example of the portrait master who visited plenty of royal courts was Michel Sittow, originally from Reval  (currently Tallinn), a disciple of Hans Memling. Sittow, trained in Bruges as a follower of Flemish primitives, became a court painter for the Trastamara and the Habsburgs dynasty. Possibly he brought the state portrait composition to the Mediterranean World, formulating it as an idea of the image of power for the monarchs.

This paper analyses the artist’s biography, including his stay in the Low Countries, Iberian Peninsula, Reval and Denmark, presenting the current state of the art and known archival documents on the painter. The study case gives an example of the Early Modern mobility of artists who transferred ideas from Northern Europe to the Iberian Peninsula. The analysis of Sittow’s oeuvre, mobility and service as a court painter documents the existing network between European regions that allowed universalism in the Copernicus time.

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