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The group portrait of the Galician Jews belongs to the late works by Piotr Michałowski (1800—1855). It was created in a time when the artist — treating painting as a hobby — managed the estate in Bolestraszyce near Przemyśl. This painting, being actually an oil study, is similar in character to the 17th-century Dutch portraits. From the dark, abstract space busts of five Jews emerge.

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The group portrait of the Galician Jews belongs to the late works by Piotr Michałowski (1800—1855). It was created in a time when the artist — treating painting as a hobby — managed the estate in Bolestraszyce near Przemyśl. This painting, being actually an oil study, is similar in character to the 17th-century Dutch portraits. From the dark, abstract space busts of five Jews emerge. The figures are of people of different ages: a patriarchal old man in the middle, mature men in the prime of their lives as well as slightly younger ones, and a youth with an ironic face and characteristic side locks. The two models in the middle are wearing ritual shawls, tallits. Their faces express various emotions revealing different tempers of the portrayed figures. The melancholic reverie, sorrow and seriousness of the older men contrast with the jaunty smile of the boy. Michałowski concentrated on depicting the spiritual depth of the models, treating the details quite synthetically: the details of the costumes and the background are elaborated throughout. The perfectly captured Semitic features, the diversified psychological characteristics, exquisite technique and sublime colour tones make the painting one of the most relevant representations of Polish Jews. It can also be interpreted as the result of the artist’s reflection on transience and the stages of human life.

Elaborated by Aleksandra Krypczyk, PhD (The National Museum in Kraków), © all rights reserved

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Painting “Jews” by Piotr Michałowski

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