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The drawing is a preparatory study for the oil painting by Jan Matejko Stefan Batory at Pskov, which can be found in the collection of the Royal Castle in Warsaw. The painting was completed in 1872, and the artist began sketching it three years earlier. This work loosely refers to the events of the three war campaigns against Moscow conducted over the years 1577–1581 by King Stefan Batory.

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The drawing is a preparatory study for the oil painting by Jan Matejko Stefan Batory at Pskov, which can be found in the collection of the Royal Castle in Warsaw. The painting was completed in 1872, and the artist began sketching it three years earlier. This work loosely refers to the events of the three war campaigns against Moscow conducted over the years 1577–1581 by King Stefan Batory. The war was waged to regain Livonia and the territory of the Polotsk province seized from the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. The conflict was concluded by a truce in Jama Zapolska (1582) favourable for the Polish side. Pursuant to its provisions, the Commonwealth recovered almost all of Livonia and Polotsk lands and thwarted the efforts of Tsar Ivan IV to gain access to the Baltic. It effectively delayed the rise of Russian hegemony in the region by almost a century. The picture shows a compilation of two historical events: the legation of Muscovite boyars received by Stefan Batory after the Polish-Lithuanian army captured the fortress Wielkie Łuki [Rus. Velikiye Luki] in 1580, and the approval of the truce in Jama Zapolska.
The drawing in the collections of the Museum of the Academy of Fine Arts in Kraków differs significantly from the final version of the painting. Matejko focused mainly on sketching the main figures taking part in both military and diplomatic activities, omitting the details of the background (the realities of the military camp). The figure also omits the defeated side, filling the right part of the pictorial composition. They represent Moscow, with the Polotsk governor Cyprian in the foreground, kneeling before the monarch and presenting to him bread and salt on a tray as a sign of peace.In the centre of the composition, the artist placed the figure of King Stefan Batory, seated in a regal pose on a faldstool (scissor chair). To his right, Grand Chancellor of the Crown Jan Zamoyski stands with a seal in his hand. Next to him stand a group of men in the midst of a discussion, one of whom has his back turned. They are probably the participants of the expedition to Wielkie Łuki: Crown Hetman [Field Marshall] Mikołaj Sieniawski, Smolensk Voivode [Governor] Filon Kmita Czarnobylski and Castellan of Gniezno and Court Hetman Jan Zborowski.
On the left side of the ruler there are three figures with silhouettes not entirely defined. Above them, Stanisław Żółkiewski, the king’s secretary, stands in hussar armour, pointing to an unspecified space with his raised left hand. Next to him, a bearded man gazes, as if saddened, at the ground. Slightly further away from them, Antonio Possevino, the papal legate, is shown in profile. This Jesuit mediator between Poland and Moscow had been tasked with quelling the conflict swiftly. Pope Gregory XIII reportedly wanted to reconcile the Catholic and Orthodox parties, and to encourage them to join forces and attack Muslim Turkey. The bottom right-hand corner of the composition is filled by two figures of unidentified noblemen. On the reverse of the drawing there are sketchy silhouettes of soldiers, with the prominent figure of Teodor Oboleński Lichow appearing in the foreground, wearing a helmet and armour, holding an unidentifiable object – in the oil version it is a broken sword, a symbol of defeat in the war against the Poles. On the right-hand side of the reverse there is an older man shown in profile. Identification of the characters (on the front page of the drawing) is facilitated to a certain extent by the notes made by Matejko, diagonally written over the heads of the characters, although they do not always refer directly to the persons sketched below.
The artist made numerous sketches for the picture. In addition to the drawing stored at the Museum of the Academy of Fine Arts, three sketches (two pencil and one in oil) can be found in the collection of the National Museum in Kraków.
The finished oil painting Stefan Batory at Pskov was met with an enthusiastic reception of its contemporary audience. It was awarded at the exhibition in Vienna, and after its display at the Paris Salon in 1874, the French Academy appointed the artist as a correspondent member of the Institut de France. Two years later, the work was acquired by Count Benedykt Tyszkiewicz for 60,000 francs, and in 1933 it was purchased for the State Art Collection in Warsaw and transferred to the Royal Castle. After the outbreak of World War II, in the first days of September 1939, the painting was attached to the shipment of the private chancellery of Ignacy Mościcki [the then president of Poland], which set off towards Wołyń [now Ukr. Volhynia], to the Radziwiłł castle in Ołyka [Ukr. Olyka]. After these territories were seized by the Soviet army, the castle was plundered by the Russians, and the canvas kept therein was sent to the Regional Museum in Łuck [Ukr. Lutsk]. Then, already under the rule of German occupiers (from 1941), it was transported to Lviv, where it underwent conservation procedures, because it had previously been stored in a package, folded into a cube, which had caused significant damage. When the front approached, in March 1944, this painting along with other Matejko’s canvases – Rejtan and Union of Lublin – was transported by the Germans successively to: Przemyśl, Wiśnicz, Cieplice, and finally it was hidden in the town of Hain in Lower Silesia. He was found by the Poles in July 1945 and then returned to the capital. The discovery of the artist’s canvases in this town led to the decision to commemorate it by re-naming the town Matejkowice. A year later, the name was changed again, this time to Przesieka.

Bibliography:

  1. W.  Okoń, Jan Matejko, Wrocław 2001.
  2. M. Zgórniak, Jan Matejko 1838-1893. Kalendarium życia i twórczości, Kraków 2004.
  3. Malowane dzieje Polski (joint publication), Warszawa 2009.
  4. http://dzielautracone.gov.pl/artykuly/148-wojenne-losy-batorego-pod-pskowem-rejtana-i-unii-lubelskiej-jana-matejki [access: 23.05.2019].

Elaborated by Agnieszka Jankowska-Marzec PhD (Academy of Fine Arts in Kraków),

Licencja Creative Commons

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Poland License.

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A sketch for the painting “Stefan Batory at Pskov” by Jan Matejko

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