Camphuysen painting comes home to roost

  • 2010-01-13
  • By Ella Karapetyan

FEATHERED PORTRAIT: Art Museum director Sirje Helme and Foreign Minister Urmas Paet admire latest gift.

TALLINN - The Art Museum of Estonia, which has been collecting, preserving and developing Estonian visual culture for decades, celebrates its 90th anniversary this year. Foreign Minister Urmas Paet has presented the museum with an oil painting by Dutch artist Govert Dircksz Camphuysen (1624-1672), entitled “Chicken in its nest,” in honor of the museum’s anniversary. Previously the painting, which was restored by the museum, belonged to the Estonian Embassy in Moscow.
Paet stated that Estonian ambassadors throughout time have valued and collected art, making valuable acquisitions on both the state and personal levels. “Some of our embassies have impressive art collections. Passing rare works of art to the Art Museum allows for the works to be displayed for a wider audience of art enthusiasts,” he said.

The minister also emphasized that Estonia’s foreign representations should be adorned first and foremost with the works of Estonian artists, and therefore it is appropriate to exhibit the paintings of foreign artists in Estonian museums.
The histories of the Art Museum of Estonia and Estonian diplomacy are closely tied. The passionate art collector Peeter Tauk, who was the consul of the Republic of Estonia in St. Petersburg, was so dedicated to art that he became the director of the museum in 1930. Another individual who possessed an impressive collection of old European paintings was Julius Seljamaa, the Estonian ambassador to Moscow from 1928-1933.

The painting “Chicken in its nest” was painted between 1645 and 1650. The authenticity and authorship of the painting has been confirmed by international specialists. Govert Camphuysen, who was born in Gorkum, studied portrait art in Amsterdam, later specializing in the painting of farm interiors, from which grew the sub-genre of fowl “portraits.” In 1652 Camphuysen went to work for the Gottorf court in Schleswig-Holstein, and in 1652 he moved on to the Stockholm court in the employ of Queen Hedvig Eleanora. The artist died in Amsterdam in 1672.

Today the collections of Estonia’s national art museum are comprised of more than 58,000 pieces of art. The museum’s permanent exhibition displays Estonian art from the 17th century to the present.
The Art Museum of Estonia consists of five different museums in the Kadriorg area and Old Town. In addition to permanent exhibitions, active exhibitions take place in four branches: in the Kumu Art Museum and the Kadriorg Art Museum in Kadriorg, and in the Niguliste Museum and the Adamson-Eric Museum in the city center. Kumu Art Museum was opened in 2006 and received the 2008 European Museum of the Year Award.

According to Director-General of the Art Museum of Estonia Sirje Helme, the active role that the museum plays in society and in cultural life is just as important as preserving the historical heritage. “The respectable museum with traditions is open to the future. The museum is an important and necessary part of modern society.”