Christian Ackermann – Tallinn’s Pheidias, Arrogant and Talented

(2016–2020)

The objective of the project is to rescue Christian Ackermann – the most scandalous and talented carver of Estonia’s Baroque era – from oblivion. Ackermann, who was dubbed Tallinn’s Pheidias (a sculptor in Ancient Greece, ca. 480 to 430 BC), broke free of the strict centuries-old guild system, and between 1680 and 1710 almost all of the most noteworthy elements of church interiors in Estonia were produced in his workshop. These included altar walls, pulpits, epitaphs with coats-of-arms, crucifixes and purportedly the baptistery in Tallinn’s St. Michael’s Swedish Church, which is unique in Estonia.

In the course of the project, contemporary methodology and technology, as well as criticism of sources, will be employed to re-evaluate the altar walls, pulpits, baptistery and other artistically valuable objects attributed to Ackermann. The top specialists will participate in the examination of the materials used for Ackermann’s carvings and cabinetmaking, along with the techniques, typology and polychromy. By connecting and comparing the results of the technical research to written archival sources, a digital database will be created that will allow the material to be analysed and make it possible to draw surer conclusions than have been possible to date regarding Ackermann’s authorship.

The project will start with an examination of the sculptor’s masterpiece – the altar wall of the Tallinn Cathedral (1694–1696), which was produced in Ackermann’s workshop – and will continue in the churches in Juuru, Järva-Madise, Rapla, Simuna, Vigala and other Estonian towns where works attributed to Ackermann may be found.

The research project will result in an exhibition at the Art Museum of Estonia’s Niguliste Museum in 2020, and a book entitled Christian Ackermann – Tallinn’s Pheidias, Arrogant and Talented.

Throughout the project, great emphasis will be placed on introducing it to the public and on developing cooperation with schools, as well as local ecclesiastical and secular communities. The goal is to show that the activities of Tallinn’s talented sculptor Christian Ackermann have also touched rural areas, as well as many parish churches and local congregations, and are still doing so today.

The project’s principal researchers:

Hilkka Hiiop
Isabel Aaso-Zahradnikova
Tiina-Mall Kreem

The project’s working group:

Merike Kurisoo
Tarmo Saaret
Hedi Kard
Andres Uueni
Kais-Piia Pedajas
Johanna Lamp
Lea Kõiv
Triin Kröönström
Juhan Kilumets
Hannes Praks
Linda Lainvoo
Signe Vahur
Alar Läänelaid
Riin Rebane

Cooperation partners:

Art Museum of Estonia
Estonian Academy of Arts
Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church
The Cathedral of Saint Mary the Virgin in Tallinn
Estonian Environmental Research Centre
Estonian Tax and Customs Board
Estonian National Heritage Board
Rändmeister OÜ
Tallinn City Archives
Tallinn City Planning Department, Heritage Protection Division
University of Tartu, the Institute of Chemistry and the Department of Geography

Project supported by:

Cultural Endowment of Estonia