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Tallinn’s Rode altarpiece project wins the 2017 European Prize for Cultural Heritage


The Rode altarpiece research and conservation project supported by Merko Ehitus and running from 2014-2016 “Rode Altarpiece in Closeup”, has won Europe’s most prestigious heritage conservation prize in the category of research.

As part of the prize, 29 recipients from 18 countries were honoured for outstanding accomplishments in preservation, research, education and awareness-raising in the field of cultural heritage and extraordinary services in preserving cultural heritage. The award winners were selected by panels consisting of independent experts from out of 202 competing projects that were nominated by individuals and organizations from 39 European countries.

Extensive conservation work on the retable of the Rode altarpiece was carried out back in 1975 to 1992, but the work went unfinished due to political changes in Estonia and the Soviet Union. The bulk of the retable was restored, but the grand sculptures remained only partially conserved. The objective of the work of the Art Museum of Estonia conservators was to complete the work. The project stood out for the interdisciplinary nature of the investigations and cooperation between different scientific fields. Besides the investigations into the retable and its conservation, a goal of the project was to consolidate Estonia’s scientific resources for technical investigations. During the Rode project, an interdisciplinary group of researchers from the sciences and the humanities worked in close collaboration. Their research resulted in significant new knowledge about one of Estonia’s most important works of art. Comparative analyses were also conducted with regard to other works credited to the workshop of Hermen Rode. The new knowledge generated by the research project are the basis for development of heritage conservation studies in Estonia, the rest of Europe and elsewhere.

The jury noted that the extremely complex project saw international resources united to conserve an incomparable work in situ. “An enthusiastic and synergistic team achieved a great result with a relatively modest budget. The project represents the absolute vanguard of painting and sculpture conservation and research practices and is a superb example of interdisciplinary and international cooperation,” the jury stated.

The results of the investigations of the Tallinn and Lübeck altarpieces can be found on the Web on a site that provides high-resolution and infrared images of the paintings. The appealing online content is open and available to the broader public and specialists around the world.kõrgresolutsioonilisi ning infrapuna ülesvõtteid. Suurepärane online esitlus on avatud ja kättesaadav nii laiemale publikule kui spetsialistidele kogu maailmas.