The University of Tartu Museum will celebrate the 250th anniversary of Johann Karl Simon Morgenstern’s birth with two new exhibitions

Photo of the exhibition "The enchanging art of stone cutting. Morgernstern 250", photo credit to Piret Tamm

This year marks 250 years from the birth of Johann Karl Simon Morgenstern, founder of the University of Tartu Art Museum, long-time director of the university library and professor of rhetoric, classical philology, aesthetics, literary and art history. To celebrate the anniversary of the birth of the professor who spent 50 years of his life in Tartu, an exhibition titled “The enchanting art of stone cutting. Morgenstern 250” will be opened at the University of Tartu Art Museum on 11 June, and the exhibition “Morning Star” will be launched the same day in the garden of the Old Observatory.

An art museum was established at the University of Tartu in 1803 at the initiative of Johann Karl Simon Morgenstern to illustrate lectures and develop the aesthetic taste of the students. For this purpose, the museum collected prints, paintings, drawings, ancient Egyptian and eastern artefacts, ancient Greek and Roman coins and ceramics. In terms of volume, out of any other items Morgenstern bought the most of plaster casts of ancient gems, which provide an inexhaustible source of images about the antiquity. The new exhibition takes a closer look at the now forgotten art of stone cutting.

The exhibition has a visitor program. In September, lectures and workshops connected to the exhibition will begin—Wednesday evenings will be dedicated to discussing many topics from geology to Estonian jewellery.  It is mostly held in Estonian but in case of interest see for more here

The curator of the exhibition is Jaanika Anderson, the University of Tartu Museum’s Director of Research, it is designed by Mari Kurismaa and the graphic solution was authored by Mari Kaljuste. The exhibition is in Estonian and English and is supported by the Cultural Endowment of Estonia. The exhibition is available until 26 March 2021.  

The German word Morgenstern means the morning star, a sobriquet of the planet Venus. The entire life of Professor Morgenstern was dedicated to classical antiquity and the fine arts, and the ancient Roman goddess of beauty Venus must therefore have been close to his heart. The exhibition at the Old Observatory’s garden introduces the planet of Venus, the story of studying it and the role Johann Heinrich Mädler and Ernst Julius Öpik, astronomers who worked at the observatory, had in this.

The exhibition was prepared by Lea Leppik, curator of the University of Tartu Museum, Regina Pala, curator of Educational Programs, and Jaak Jaaniste, an astronomer. The exhibition was designed by Maarja Roosi from the University of Tartu Press, and the graphic design’s authors are Maarja Roosi and Marge Nelk from the University of Tartu Museum. The exhibition is in Estonian and is available free of charge at the Old Observatory’s garden. It will remain open at least until the end of the year.

Additional information:

Jaanika Anderson, Director of Research of the University of Tartu Museum,, 5344 7404

Lea Leppik, Curator of the University of Tartu Museum,, 526 1236