Flemish painting and De Jonckheere Gallery's old master paintings
Circa 1469 – Tallinn – 1525
According to tradition, the Estonian painter born in Reval (Tallinn) around 1469 was a student of Memling in Bruges, where his presence is documented around 1484. His reputation and the recognition he garnered through his artistic talents enabled him to enter the service of Isabella I from 1492. It is for Queen Isabella that, in collaboration with Juan de Flanders, he produced an Oratorium, a set of small devotional panels tracing the life of Christ which Dürer had the opportunity to admire in 1521 in Mechelen at the court of Margaret of Austria. Sittow’s presence is further documented in Toledo in 1501 but it is known that the following year he left for the Netherlands, before returning to Tallinn in 1506 where he registered in the Painters’ Guild in 1507. In 1514, he was in Copenhagen at the court of Christian II of Denmark, whose portrait he also painted. The contacts that he maintained with the Hapsburg court took him successively to Mechelen to work for the regent Margaret of Austria, to Valladolid to work for Ferdinand V and to the court of the future Charles V. It is in the city of his birth, however, which he never left after 1518, that he died in 1525.
His style crosses the influence of Memling with a robustness and vigour that is more Germanic, and follows the developments of pre-renaissance art.
In his compositions, Sittow displays a remarkable capacity for rendering materials and textures, and heightens the effect of immediate presence of his figures through a recurrent use of close up views. All of these qualities considered, he is certainly one of the most notable portraitists of the early 16th century.