A Journey to the Orient. Otto Friedrich von Richter’s (1791–1816) Trips and Collection
The exhibition, which was organised by the University of Tartu Art Museum and supplemented for the Kadriorg Art Museum, focuses on the exploratory trips in Egypt and south-west Asia made by the Baltic-German orientalist and traveller Otto Friedrich von Richter (1791–1816).
Richter, who was born at Vastse-Kuuste Manor in Tartumaa, studied classical philology and Oriental studies in Moscow, Heidelberg and Vienna. In 1814, he set out on an exploratory journey to Egypt and Nubia, and was one of the first to study the cultural treasures of this area. Unfortunately, he died unexpectedly in 1816 while visiting Smyrna (today Izmir, Turkey).
Most of the artefacts collected by him and transferred to the University of Tartu are now located in Voronezh, Russia, where they were evacuated to during World War I. Therefore, in the exhibition they are replaced by works of art related to the culture of ancient Egypt that come from other Estonian collections. However, Richter’s letters home to his family, drawings and diaries, and their publications are on display. They are supplemented by examples of Egyptian material culture – amulets, figures of the god Osiris, and ushabti figurines (which helped one’s soul in the afterlife) – from the collections of the Estonian History Museum and Pekka Erelt.
Unlike the Tartu exhibition, which, in addition to Richter’s journey, focused more on the introduction of the various aspects of Egyptian culture, this exhibition turns its attention to the architectural legacy of the areas that Richter visited during his travels. Therefore, a closer examination is made of the graphic art series that introduce artefacts from the places that Richter visited, and which were influenced by the Egyptomania that swept Europe at the end of the 18th century. Although these series were created by scientists and artists on exploratory trips for scientific purposes, they are imbued with perceptiveness, as well as practical precision.
Alongside the engravings published in Europe during the first half of the 19th century, the sepia drawings on Oriental subjects made by J. W. Krause, the architect of the University of Tartu, stand out. These drawings, which are currently located in the University of Tartu Library, are copies of illustrations from scientific travelogues, the creation of which allowed readers to immerse themselves in the topic and travel back in time to other countries.
The original objects, graphic art providing an informative view of Egyptian culture and its study, Richter’s letters and diaries from the National Archive, and playful display objects allow the viewer to make an imaginary trip with Otto von Richter through the lands of the East.
Exhibition curators: Anu Allikvee (Kadriorg Art Museum), Jaanika Anderson and Kristiina Tiideberg (University of Tartu Art Museum)
Exhibition designer: Silver Vahtre
The exhibition was organised in collaboration with the University of Tartu Art Museum.
Karl August Senff. Portrait of Orientalist Otto Friedrich von Richter. After 1816. Art Museum of Estonia