Eduard Wiiralt’s Unknown Matchbox Picture from Vienna, 24 December 1944


  • Anu Raudsepp



Estonian art in exile, Bookplate, Ex libris, Graphics, Eduard Wiiralt


The main objective of the article is to introduce the matchbox picture
called Girl Looking Up in Prayer created in Vienna on 24 December
1944 and the bookplate based thereon that was produced in Estonia
in 1960. In addition, based on archival sources, an explanation is
provided of the reception of Eduard Wiiralt’s work in occupied
Estonia until the end of the 1950s.

Despite the common belief that Wiiralt was totally ignored during
the Stalinist period in Estonia, he was still included in the art history
curricula of the official schools of higher education. Many of the
students at that time were soon actively helping to restore public
recognition to Wiiralt, which occurred after the artist’s death in
1954. The introduction of Wiiralt’s oeuvre in Estonia was preceded
by an exhibition in Moscow in 1956. It is possible that the matchbox
picture that was sent to Estonia in a letter on 15 February 1959 was
not the first original post-war work by Wiiralt to arrive here. The
owner had the picture made into a bookplate that was produced in
a large run. Eduard Wiiralt himself is known to have made seven
bookplates between 1918 and 1936.

It is also possible to document the changes that have occurred in
society and the moods of the times through art. From the matchbox
picture that Wiiralt drew on Vienna on Christmas Eve in 1944, the
year that Estonia lost its independence, one can surmise the artist’s
belief and hope that his beloved Estonia would someday become
free again.


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Author Biography

Anu Raudsepp

Anu Raudsepp, PhD (b. 1962) is working as an Associate Professor at the Institute of History and Archaeology of University of Tartu. Her main fields of research include the history of the Stalinist Era, and textbook research.