Fun facts

1. Which sculpture of the Museum has taken a swim in Lake Peipus?
Director of the Art Museum Ludwig Schwabe ordered a plaster cast copy of the Lion Gate of Mycenae, which was brought by train to Petseri and then across Lake Peipus to Tartu. A little way off the coast of Estonia, the carriage fell through the ice. The water-hardened sculpture was later on display in the Art Museum’s green hall.

2. Which item in the Art Museum is older than 4000 years?
The Museum’s oldest object is an ancient Sumerian cuneiform tablet from the Third Dynasty of Ur (21st century BC), which was made in 2046 BC. It is a regular economic document, which contains information on the time and materials used to build a house.

3. The Art Museum has a death mask, which is one of two death masks of this man in the entire world. Whose death mask is it?
The Art Museum’s blue hall contains the death mask of famous German philosopher Immanuel Kant, which is one of two remaining death masks that survive to this day. Kant died in 1804 and a Professor of Königsberg Art School, A. Knorre, made three death masks altogether. The second mask is in the collection of the University of Berlin.

4. Which artefact of the Museum can be viewed thanks to an X-ray image?
The Art Museum’s green hall contains a brown clay pot with an oval packet tied to it with string. The packet contains the mummy of a bird. These birds were considered sacred in Ancient Egypt, which is why they were mummified and sacrificed to the gods. In 2004, the Museum X-rayed the container and discovered the ibis inside. You can now see an X-ray image of the bird’s skeleton in the Museum.

5. Which city’s paintings served as an inspiration to the beautiful walls of the Art Museum?
In order to portray the air of antiquity and better exhibit the white plaster sculptures, the rooms of the Museum were designed in Pompeian style in 1868. The colour and decor of the exhibition halls follows the murals of Pompeii rather closely. The painting of the murals, which was based on the colourful lithography plates by W. Zahn from 1827–1859, was supervised by the Director of the Museum and renowned archaeologist Ludwig Schwabe (1835–1908). The murals were made by Tartu painter F. Redlin who adapted the murals to the walls of the Museum.

6. Are all the sculptures in the Art Museum white?
When entering the Art Museum’s red hall you can see a coloured glass above one part of the Parthenon’s frieze. The aim of this is to show you how Ancient Greek sculptures and reliefs looked when coloured. The statues were not only white or bronze, they looked like real people. The green hall shows two small kore, one of which is coloured and the other is not.

7. Which courtyard inhabitants used to disturb University lectures?
In the beginning of the 19th century, the servants of the University kept birds and livestock in the courtyard. Professors complained to the Rector that the crowing and other noises made it difficult for them to teach classes.

8. What frightened penalised students in the University attic?
The attic of the Main Building had five lock-ups where miss-behaved students had to pay their penance. The most unpleasant thing about these rooms was the rats, which had grown to the size of small cats due to the plentiful living conditions.

9. Why did bearded students avoid the University beadle?
A beard was a sign of revolutionary thinking, which was feared in the Imperial University. A student with a beard could be assigned several days in the lock-up.

10. Who studied in the Main Building’s “Hell”?
“Hell” was the nickname of the rooms in the basement of the Main Building used by chemists.

11. What lay behind the small doors the halls of the Main Building 200 years ago and what is kept there now?
Before installing central heating in the middle of the previous century, the University kept firewood behind those doors because they were next to the furnaces. Nowadays these rooms are used as storage, mostly for cleaning supplies.

12. Who did the students call “poodle”?
Poodle was a nickname for the University beadle aka the campus policeman.

13. What connection does the Art Museum have with Raadi manor?
UT Art Museum’s graphics collection contains more than 6000 prints, most of which originate from the art collection from Raadi manor. The collection reached the University in the 1920s and it contains remarkable prints from 15–18th century European masters (Dürer, Pollaiolo, Ugo da Carpi, Ostade, Hogart, etc.) as well as Japanese woodblock prints. These objects are put on display in the temporary exhibitions of the Art Museum.

14. Why do tourists always want to see the University Assembly Hall?
The Assembly Hall has the most remarkable interior in the University. Since its opening ceremony on July 31, 1809, it has been the venue of almost all the University’s big events, such as annual opening ceremonies, graduations, beautiful concerts and interesting lectures. In the 19th century, the Assembly Hall was renowned as a hall of great taste so everyone passing Tartu always visited it. These walls have heard the playing of famous pianists F. Liszt, C. Schumann and A. Rubenstein and the speeches of Karl XVI, the King of Sweden, and His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama.

15. What was located in the lobby of the Main Building one hundred years ago, in the place where faculty information boards now are?
In the 19th century, there was a blackboard where they wrote the names of students who had broken academic conduct. Before getting your name on the board you had to go through five stages of punishment, including reprimands and detentions in the lock-up.