Culture and art heritage

New display for the Tallinn Dance of Death

In this project, a new modern display was created as part of a design and engineering project, a multimedia solution presenting the painting and its iconography to visitors, and a display solution for visitors with special needs. For the first time in Estonia, a large sheet of custom-made museum glass was used in a specially designed display wall. The special protective glass, which is 8 metres long and weighs over 600 kg, was made in Germany and allows the painting to be viewed in as authentic a form as possible.

The Tallinn Dance of Death, ascribed to the famous Lübeck master Bernt Notke and preserved in the Niguliste Museum, dates from the late 15th century and is the world’s only surviving medieval painting of the dance of death on canvas. It is a rare painting by one of the most famous and important masters of Lübeck, Bernt Notke. Only 7.5 metres has survived of the original, which was nearly 30 metres long, and depicted dozens of figures. The thirteen mortals in the painting are arranged hierarchically, dancing with Death depicted as a skeleton, against a background of an autumn landscape. The Tallinn Dance of Death was first mentioned in records in 1603, probably commissioned for St Matthew’s Chapel (St Anthony’s Chapel since the 17th century) in St Nicholas Church, where it remains today.

The new display for Bernt Notke’s Dance of Death was nominated for two awards: the Cultural Endowment of Estonia’s architecture endowment annual award 2019 and the Estonian Association of Interior Architects’ annual award 2019.

We have been cooperating closely with the Art Museum of Estonia since 2005, and in 2019 we were able to celebrate the opening of the new display for the Dance of Death. The new display solution for this grand rarity is the work of KOKO architects.

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