Universitas Tartuensis Enn Põldroosi maalil


  • David Ilmar Lepsaar Beecher




Universitas Tartuensis in the painting
by Enn Põldroos

The painting Universitas Tartuensis was commissioned by the Ministry
of Culture of Soviet Estonia from artist Enn Põldroos in 1982 as
part of the celebration of the University’s 350th anniversary. Closely
imitating the conversation depicted by Raphael in his most famous
fresco in the Vatican from 1511, “The School of Athens,” Põldroos
translated Raphael’s scholars of the ancient world into thirty-seven
of the greatest students and professors across three and half centuries
from Tartu University. This brief essay describes the relationship
among the figures depicted in the painting to evoke the tension
between two visions of Tartu University. On the one hand, Tartu
University is an “imagined community,” bringing various strangers
into conversation with one another across time and space, creating
selves out of others. But it is also an “ivory tower of Babel,” creating
others out of selves, isolating its students and scholars from one
other and the wider world by its deep internal disciplinary and linguistic
divides. In the silence of Universitas Tartuensis hovers the
unanswered question: what common language could these scholars
possibly be speaking to one another?


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