Eine Aussicht auf Reval (Tallinn) samt ihrer Befestigungen


  • Ragnar Nurk




Ragnar Nurk: A view on talllinn with her fortifications
Keywords: Karl (Carl) Ferdinand von Kügelgen (1772–1831);
cityscape, realism, Tallinn, first half of the 19th century,
artillery fortification
The article introduces one of the best examples of the once popular Tallinn cityscape motif: a painting that is artistically significant but also valuable as a historical document. The oil painting from the the collection of the Art Museum of Estonia is attributed to Karl (Carl) Ferdinand von Kügelgen (1772–1831), a landscape painter from Rhineland who had family ties in the Tallinn region and spent the last years of his life there. Besides that fact, the technical mastery also supports the attribution
to Kügelgen. The representation is historically accurate – true to
the period of time when Kügelgen resided in the city, and the detail of depictions implies substantial knowledge of the Tallinn area. Still, art historian Voldemar Vaga has drawn attention to the fact that in contrast to Kügelgen’s typically Classicist and slightly beautifying depictions of reality, this painting is Realist to the smallest detail. The motif under scrutiny is common both in painting and in graphic art from the 1820s to 1850s. The paintings with this motif depict a declining provincial city and a fort of the Russian Empire that had reached its height in the medieval times. Kügelgen’s painting shows clearly the expanse of the entrenchments taking up the space between the city centre and the outskirts and it also exposes a dissimilarity in construction methods as well as a spatial separation between the two areas. An outstanding depicted detail is Nunnavall (German „Nonnenwall”), an earthen entrenchment seen just in front of the city wall together with a polygonal stone construction between the sections of the entrenchment – the most realistic extant  depiction of this feature. From other images and the city plans of the time we can infer that initially there were two stone  constructions – placed at both intersections of the entrenchment. One of the constructions is later incorporated into the larger  Skoone bastion that can be seen on the background of the painting. The depiction of these buildings suggests that they functioned as caponiers – a type of a bunker for the defence
of the moat, and not as bastions. Also, it is possible that these buildings were actually built later than the rest of the rampart, e.g. from the period of the Livonian War (1558–1583). Tody The Old Town and its surrounding city wall have survived much the same as depicted in the painting. In contrast, the earthen entrenchments have been entirely flattened and in their place parks have been developed.

CV :
Ragnar Nurk is a doctoral student at the Institute of History of Tallinn University, and works as an archaeologist. His master’s thesis on the development and architecture of a section of Tallinn bastion zone near Anthony‘s Hill (German „Antonius-Berg”, Estonian „Tõnismäe”) earned him the Estonian Academy of Sciences Student Research Prize in 2011.


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