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Jüri-Martin Lepp

  • Faculty of Art and Culture
  • Cultural Heritage and Conservation
  • BA
  • Renaissance of The Master of Koeru Evangelists. Redefining the 17th Century Polychromist Through the Technical Research and Conservation of the Koeru Crucifix and the Painting The Last Supper.
  • Tutor: prof. Hilkka Hiiop and Pia Ehasalu, PhD
Crucifix in Koeru church. Photo: P. Säre.
The Last Supper. Photo: P. Säre.

This Bachelor thesis aims to revive a 17th Century master from oblivion through the research
and conservation of two distinct objects from the end of the 1600s. The Old Master, Master of Koeru Evangelists, received his pseudonym after the four paintings of evangelists found on the cross of the Koeru crucifix.

The current project was part of a bigger one called “Christian Ackermann. Tallinn’s Phidias, Arrogant and Talented”. During the project, it was decided in collaboration with the Estonian Art Academy, the Estonian Heritage Board, and the Koeru church congregation to remove the secondary paint layers to reveal the original baroque polychrome layers.

Hence, during the conservation process, four paintings of the evangelists were discovered at the ends of the crucifix’s cross.

Process of revealing the painting. Photo: H. Hiiop.
St Mark the Evangelist. Photo: P. Säre.
St Matthew the Evangelist. P. Säre.
St Luke the Evangelist. P. Säre.
St John the Evangelist. P. Säre.

It was soon discovered that the paintings on the crucifix were stylistically similar to a painting at the Tallinn City Museum, called the Last Supper. When analysing the two artworks, it became clear that the author of both paintings was the same master.

As the painting was in a bad condition, it was decided to conserve the art piece.

The Last Supper before conservation. Photo: P. Säre.
The Last Supper after the conservation. Photo: P. Säre.

Like all the artists from the 17th Century, the Master of Koeru Evangelists used prints for his works. Most probably the Last Supper was painted after the engraving by Christoph Weigel (“Biblia Ectypa” 1695).  Another print (1725) survives made by Jan Wanderlaan according to whom the original composition was made by Joachim von Sandrart, which was not found during the research. The same composition can be found in Põlva, Estonia in the old altarpiece.

Engraving by C. Weigel. Photo: Pitts Theology Library Digital Image Archive.
Engraving by J. Wandelaar. Photo: Rijksmuseum.
The old altarpiece in Põlva. Photo: M. Viljus – Eesti kirikute andmebaas.

The thesis can be found on the following page.