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Lajkonik is photographed slightly from the bottom, framing the torso, turned to the right. He is holding a cup in his hand; he is receiving something to drink. The City Hall is visible in the background. The photograph was taken in the 1960s or 70s. It belongs to a series of five photos by the same author...

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Lajkonik is photographed slightly from the bottom, framing the torso, turned to the right. He is holding a cup in his hand; he is receiving something to drink. The City Hall is visible in the background. The photograph was taken in the 1960s or 70s. It belongs to a series of five photos by the same author — Wiesław Tomaszkiewicz — from the collections of the MuFo (“Lajkonik, preparations for performances. Makeup”), depicting Lajkonik before a procession. An important part of the programme, during Lajkonik's performances, were refreshments in a cup, both for Lajkonik and the city president, as well as hitting the audience with a baton, which supposedly brought luck to the persons hit (in the MuFo collections there are photos from other performances of Lajkonik, including participation of the chairman of the City Council, Tadeusz Mrugacz, in the photograph of Edward Węglowski, MHF 22112/II, MHF 22113/II, as well as photographs depicting Lajkonik, performed by Adam Karaś or the Karaś Brothers).
Lajkonik’s Procession or Lajkonik’s Frolic, is a folk game that takes place in Kraków every year on the first Thursday after the feast of Corpus Christi (“in the octave of Corpus Christi”). The main character of the game is Lajkonik [a Tatar on a Zwierzyniecki horse], a bearded rider in a pseudo-oriental outfit, moving on an artificial horse attached to his belt, who traverses the traditional route from Zwierzyniec to the Main Market Square in the company of the Mlaskot band and the crew of raftsmen, dressed in Kraków and Tatar costumes. The first mention of the Lajkonik procession dates from 1738. The costumes were designed by Stanisław Wyspiański in 1903, then in the 1950s by Witold Chomicz. Since 1997, the ensemble has performed in costumes designed by Krystyna Zachwatowicz. Lajkonik has a turban, a Turkish caftan, a red kontusz, a belt, a jatagan at his side (a short Turkish sword with a curved blade), and holds a wooden baton in his hand. The horse is covered with a saddle with bells and a crescent, the neck of the horse is covered with a breastplate with three gold discs; a plume of white ostrich feathers protrudes above his head. The rider wears red leather shoes, not visible here. The legend claims that Leszek the Black’s Tatars came to Kraków, and the folk were defending the city. The little horse reminds us of the historical event of the Tatar attacks. Another view of the tradition seeks sources in pagan rites (Oskar Kolberg). For Ambroży Grabowski, Lajkonik in the times of the Duchy of Warsaw “has been resumed on the basis of its vague presentation”. The name may come from German. Michał Rożek cites the Slavic name lala, meaning death. A Lajkonik procession, a folk tradition — would this be a way of taming death?

Elaborated by Małgorzata Kanikuła (Museum of Photography  in Kraków), © all rights reserved

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The Lajkonik Parade

The Lajkonik (a person dressed as a Tatar riding a hobbyhorse), formerly known as the Zwierzyniec Horse, appears on one day of the year on the streets of Kraków together with its whole entourage and the Mlaskot band (which owes its name to the shrill sound of the music it plays), on the octave of the Feast of Corpus Christi.

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The Lajkonik (a person dressed as a Tatar riding a hobbyhorse), formerly known as the Zwierzyniec Horse, appears on one day of the year on the streets of Kraków together with its whole entourage and the Mlaskot band (which owes its name to the shrill sound of the music it plays), on the octave of the Feast of Corpus Christi. At noon he sets off from the Norbertine convent, and then interacts with passers-by and touches spectators with his mace. This is supposed to bring health and prosperity to those who have been touched.
In the afternoon, he arrives at the Main Market Square and, after having danced near the Town Hall Tower with a standard-bearer (who waves around a large red standard with a white eagle and the coat of arms of Kraków), the Lajkonik collects a symbolic tribute from the municipal authorities and drinks a cup of wine for the welfare of the city and its inhabitants (see The Lajkonik is offered a treat in front of the Town Hall).
This custom is connected with the participation in processions of the Feast of Corpus Christi of the Zwierzyniec congregation of rafters who float timber along the Vistula River. It has been associated with the legend, which tells how the rafters repelled an attack of Tatars near Kraków, and how the bravest of them entered the city ceremonially on horseback, dressed in a trophy Tatar costume.
This tradition is maintained to this day, though the former rafters have been replaced by the workers of the Municipal Water Supply Company, and the costumes of the attendants of the procession and the band have changed over the years, designed by artists. For example, since the 1950s, both the rafters and the Mlaskot band have used costumes designed by Witold Chomicz (a professor of the Academy of Fine Arts in Kraków, and a lover of folklore and the traditions of the Zwierzyniec borough of Kraków). The costumes have been refreshed by Krystyna Zachwatowicz since 1997.
However, the costume of the Lajkonik has remained unchanged since 1904, when it was designed by Stanisław Wyspiański.

Elaborated by Małgorzata Oleszkiewicz (The Seweryn Udziela Ethnographic Museum in Kraków), © all rights reserved

See also:
Toy “Lajkonik's march” by Jan Oprocha (father)

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Wiesław Tomaszkiewicz — photographer, operator, mountaineer...

The collection of the Museum of Photography in Kraków contains many photos by the renowned photographer and cinematographer, Wiesław Tomaszkiewicz. He was born on 1 July 1924 in Nowy Sącz and died in 2009. He was a master of Oriental Philology, a cinematographer — he took photos for documentary films — a photographer, a mountaineer and an amateur radioman.

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The collection of the Museum of Photography in Kraków contains many photos by the renowned photographer and cinematographer, Wiesław Tomaszkiewicz. He was born on 1 July 1924 in Nowy Sącz and died in 2009. He was a master of Oriental Philology, a cinematographer — he took photos for documentary films — a photographer, a mountaineer and an amateur radioman. His collection of photographs contains almost 54,000 photos, from 1939 to 1990. The oldest photographs show occupied Kraków and the Tomaszkiewicz family.
A significant number of the pictures depict mountaineering, off-road car and motorcycle rallies, movie sets, landscapes, and Polish architecture. Climbing was his passion; already, during World War II, he had been closely associated with the Kraków group of Pokutniks (climbing the rocks near Kraków). He practiced climbing in the first years after the war, in 1948, also in winter. He is the author of photography for many TV programmes related to the Tatra Mountains, Zakopane, Podhale, and the Beskids. The Museum of Photography stores a series of photos, including: Kalwaria Zebrzydowska (1955–1965), Motorcycles in the square (1950–1969), a portrait of Epifaniusz Drowniak (Nikifor).

Elaborated by Małgorzata Kanikuła (Museum of Photography in Kraków), © all rights reserved

See:
“Block of flats being constructed — Kraków, Nowa Huta”
“The Lajkonik is offered a treat in front of the Town Hall”

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“The Lajkonik is offered a treat in front of the Town Hall”

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Recent comments

katarzyna piszczkiewicz
08/01/15 12:49
Czy ten Lajkonik to Zdzisław Dudzik?
Kinga Kolodziejska
20/08/15 15:23
Nie, to Stanisław Andrasz, który odgrywał rolę lajkonika przed Zdzisławem Dudzikiem. Dziękujemy bardzo za to pytanie, bo sprawiło, że musimy jeszcze raz przyjrzeć się opisowi powyższej fotografii i poprawić póki co datowanie (Stanisław Andrasz występował w tej roli do 1957 roku, a więc data powstania zdjęcia nie może wykraczać poza lata 60.), a następnie rozwinąć opis po konsultacji z Muzeum Historycznym miasta Krakowa. Pozdrawiamy!

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