Art academy restoration work reveals rare Baroque religious painting

The Christian Ackermann painting of Luke the Evangelist during stages of uncovering.
The Christian Ackermann painting of Luke the Evangelist during stages of uncovering. Source: ERR

Restoration work of a wood-carved crucifix has revealed a Great Northern War-era decoration by noted Estonian wood carver Christian Ackermann, which had been painted-over at some point.

The project, led by the Estonian Art Academy (EKA), studied the work of Baroque wood carver Christian Ackermann (d. 1710), including a large crucifix taken from Koeru Church in Järva County.

Scraping away a paint covering revealed religious iconography thought to date from the time of the Great Northern War (1700-1721).

"It's so incredibly exciting, because we have no idea what's going to come out of this," EKA professor Hilkka Hiiop told ETV current affairs show "Aktuaalne kaamera".

The initial work suggested that the painting was of one of the four evangelists, Hiiop said. Once the horn of a bull started to emerge, it became clear that Luke was the subject matter, she added.

Art historian Tiina-Mall Kreem told "Aktuaalne kaamera" that Luke was the patron saint of doctors. 

"He was also a doctor himself, but since he is also believed to have been the first person to paint an image of the Virgin Mary, he is also considered the patron saint of painters and sculptors, or even of our own Christian Ackermann," Kreem said.

More similar surprises might be in the offing from work on other wooden crucifixes from the era, Kreem added.

"Now we know that we have to look further, at other crucifixes from the Baroque era which have since been painted over," she added.

Hilkka Hiiop said that so far no original Ackermann work in polychrome has survived in Estonia to date, only a few fragments, such as altar details at Vigala Church (Rapla County), which were on a wall and had survived repainting work.

The restored crucifix is ​​expected to be exhibited publicly in the autumn, when a representative display of Ackermann's works is to be opened at the Niguliste Church (now a museum-ed.) in Tallinn.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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