The Appearance of Hans and Jaan. A 17th Century Epitaph Painting Donated by Estonian Peasants

Merike Kurisoo, Aivar Põldvee


The epitaph donated by Hans and Jaan, two peasants from Türi parish, is evidence of the acceptance of ecclesiastic values and religious devotion among the Estonian peasantry. Other examples of this tendency from the Swedish era also exist. For instance, the grand wheel crosses, typical for North Estonia, that were once located in the Türi churchyard; and a chandelier (1659) donated by a peasant in the Keila church, the size of which exceeds those gifted by manor lords. From a later period, the stained-glass coats of arms of the peasantry in the Ilumäe chapel (1729) are also an example of this heightened sense of self-awareness and its display in houses of worships.

Along with the hundreds and hundreds of works donated to churches by nobles, the epitaph painting depicting the Adoration of the Shepherds is a rare example of a painting gifted to a church by farmers, which also commemorates them. Hans and Jaan have now earned a place in Estonian (art) history: the pictures of the two simple men are the first known portraits of peasants whose names we know.


17th century; Estonian peasants; Lutheran art; epitaphs; church art

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ISSN 1736-8812 (print)
ISSN 2346-5581 (online)