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Prince Józef Poniatowski — nephew of the last king of Poland, general commander of the army of the Duchy of Warsaw — died in the Battle of Leipzig in 1813. Death in the waters of the Elster River initiated the cult of his character, strongly associated with the legend of Napoleon. In 1817, the prince's body was placed in the St. Leonard's Crypt under Wawel Cathedral.
The bust is an original copy of a study for the famous Warsaw monument of Prince Józef Poniatowski, sculpted by Bertel Thorvaldsen. Jakub Tatarkiewicz, who — like Konstanty Hegel and Paweł Maliński — was Thorvaldsen's student at the Roman Academy of St. Luke, successfully adapted the cold neoclassicism of his teacher here.

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Prince Józef Poniatowski — nephew of the last king of Poland, general commander of the army of the Duchy of Warsaw — died in the Battle of Leipzig in 1813. Death in the waters of the Elster River initiated the cult of his character, strongly associated with the legend of Napoleon. In 1817, the prince's body was placed in the St. Leonard's Crypt under Wawel Cathedral.
The bust is an original copy of a study for the famous Warsaw monument of Prince Józef Poniatowski, sculpted by Bertel Thorvaldsen. Jakub Tatarkiewicz, who — like Konstanty Hegel and Paweł Maliński — was Thorvaldsen's student at the Roman Academy of St. Luke, successfully adapted the cold neoclassicism of his teacher here.
Prince Józef Poniatowski was portrayed as a hero stylized as an ancient leader, with hair placed over his forehead in the Roman manner and with a naked torso. To emphasize the nationality of Prince Józef, the toga — asymmetrically draped on his shoulder — was tied with a fibula with the image of the eagle of the Duchy of Warsaw.  The overwhelming influence of ancient portrait sculpture is also visible in a certain idealization of his facial features, while maintaining the characteristics of the model.
This ancient stylization is also rooted in Tatarkiewicz's interest in the views of Stanisław Kostka Potocki, who translated and adapted the work of Johann Joachim Winckelmann Geschichte der Kunst des Alterthums (the title of the Polish translation, published in Warsaw in 1815: On art in the past, or Polish Winkelmann). Winckelmann's “noble simplicity and calm grandeur” finds expression in the sculptural work of Tatarkiewicz, whose full moderation was characterized by a harmonious, compact body, and smooth texture. Tatarkiewicz was also a theoretician of art, whose works included A Guide to Sculptural Art.

Elaborated by Agata Małodobry (The National Museum in Kraków), © all rights reserved

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Sculpture “Portrait of Józef Poniatowski” by Jakub Tatarkiewicz

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