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Michel Sittow


The son of a painter, Michel Sittow was born in around 1468 in Reval (the town in Estonia now called Tallinn). In around 1483, he moved to Bruges to work as an apprentice, possibly for the great Netherlandish painter Hans Memling.

In 1492, Sittow was working for Isabella, Queen of Castile and León, at a time when she and her husband Fernando were becoming increasingly powerful. He remained in her service until her death in 1504, but even during her lifetime, he was not always tied to her court, and worked and travelled abroad. The works he produced included portraits and small devotional works such as 'The Ascension'.

In 1506, he returned to Reval and became a member the artists' guild. Then, in 1509, at the age of around 40, he married for the first time. Still sought after as a portrait painter, Sittow continued to travel around the royal courts of the Netherlands. He also returned to Spain, not to work, but to try and extract the salary that had been promised to him by Isabella. In 1518 he had again returned to Reval and had married for the second time.