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The painting shows Henryk Dembiński (1791–1864), a veteran of the Napoleonic Wars, an outstanding commander and strategist in the November Uprising, and one of the leaders of the Hungarian Revolution of 1848–1849, sitting thoughtfully, in a staff tent. Under a veiled curtain, a battle scene is visible in the distance. The painting symbolically refers to the work of the master Rodakowski, Léon Cogniet (1794–1880), who — after the failure of the November Uprising — painted the picture Prague 1831, showing a fresh battlefield and an officer standing in front of it, whose attitude and facial expression were marked by determination and a desire for revenge. 

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The painting shows Henryk Dembiński (1791–1864), a veteran of the Napoleonic Wars, an outstanding commander and strategist in the November Uprising, and one of the leaders of the Hungarian Revolution of 1848–1849, sitting thoughtfully, in a staff tent. Under a veiled curtain, a battle scene is visible in the distance. The painting symbolically refers to the work of the master Rodakowski, Léon Cogniet (1794–1880), who — after the failure of the November Uprising — painted the picture Prague 1831, showing a fresh battlefield and an officer standing in front of it, whose attitude and facial expression were marked by determination and a desire for revenge. The protagonist (or crypto-protagonist) of the painting was General Dembiński, because the officer's character has a symbolic nature in this portrayal.
Rodakowski, while painting the general's portrait after the failure of the Spring of Nations, presented him in a contemplative — but not resigned — pose. His hand was supported on the sabre, over the operational map, against the background of a symbolical, unresolved battle.
The work, through skilfully combined features of romantic, realistic and academic painting, belongs to the genre juste milieu (from the French “golden mean”). However, the romantic element is dominant. The painting was awarded the 1st class grand gold medal at the Paris Salon in 1852, and Cyprian Kamil Norwid dedicated a poem to it.

Elaborated by Wacława Milewska (The National Museum in Kraków), © all rights reserved

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Painting “Portrait of General Henryk Dembiński”

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