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The Our Lady of Ludźmierz painting on glass was painted in 1970 by Władysław Walczak-Baniecki (1930–2011), folk artist from Zakopane. It is one of three paintings of his on this theme included in the collections at the Tatra Museum. The other two were completed in 1967 and 1973. They were all painted according to one scheme developed by the artist and repeated in every painting, and they differ only in the colour scheme.

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The Our Lady of Ludźmierz painting on glass was painted in 1970 by Władysław Walczak-Baniecki (1930–2011), folk artist from Zakopane. It is one of three paintings of his on this theme included in the collections at the Tatra Museum. The other two were completed in 1967 and 1973. They were all painted according to one scheme developed by the artist and repeated in every painting, and they differ only in the colour scheme.
The painting on display is an interesting example of the presence of the Our Lady of Ludźmierz theme in modern paintings on glass from the Podhale region, even at a time when it was not yet flourishing. The painting differs from other paintings on this theme that were painted according to the later-developed, popular iconographic model where the image of Our Lady of Ludźmierz is frequently supplemented with props associated with the Podhale culture, e.g., elements of the highlander outfit, architecture and mountain landscape; and the ornaments feature the edelweiss or carline thistle motifs considered to be typical of the Podhale region. In his work Władysław Walczak-Baniecki drew only on the traditional method of sacral iconography depicted in paintings on glass, without any regional staffage.
In his paintings he freely interpreted the sculpture of Our Lady with a Child from the beginning of the 15th century that could be found in the Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Ludźmierz near Nowy Targ.
The history of Ludźmierz, the oldest settlement in the Podhale region, dates back to the 13th century and is directly associated with the settlement of the Cistercian Order. Upon arrival they erected a larch wooden church here and founded the first Catholic parish in the Podhale region.
Folk legend has it that the sculpture of Our Lady was brought to the church in Ludźmierz by a wine-trading merchant. When he was going back to Hungary with his goods, he got lost and fell into a peat bog near Ludźmierz. Saved by a prayer to Our Lady, he vowed to bring her image to the Ludźmierz Church; he kept his promise.
The statue of Our Lady from the Ludźmierz Sanctuary, known since 1963 as the Queen and Hostess of Podhale, has been the object of religious worship for centuries. Inhabitants from the entire region of Tatra (Podhale, Spiš, Orava), Gorce and Beskid Wyspowy Mountains have been and still go on pilgrimages to the miracle-famous figure of Our Lady. Pilgrims come here most often on 15 August — on the holiday of the church patron, and on the first Sunday of September on the day of the Birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary when highlanders thank the Hostess of Podhale for the harvest. Every year the Podhale Harvest Festival is organised here on this Sunday. Also, every year since the second half of the 1980s, on a Sunday around 23 April, Baca Day is celebrated in the Ludźmierz Sanctuary.
Our Lady of Ludźmierz is primarily the Healer of the Sick. She protects everyone from natural calamities and makes dying easier. She is considered to be the patron and guardian of those lost in journey, and the guardian of highlanders who emigrate in search of work. Although she is visited also by pilgrims from other regions of the country and Slovakia, Our Lady of Ludźmierz is generally considered to be the patron of Podhale. In his homily on 8 June 1979 in Nowy Targ John Paul II said the following: “Our Lady is always similar to the people from her home. When I was in Mexico, I was looking at Our Lady of Guadalupe, Our Lady of Indians, and I was strongly reminded of Our Lady of Ludźmierz, because she is the true hostess of Podhale. Entire generations of highlanders have been coming to Her and looking for intercession and encouragement, calling for her guardianship”.
The Our Lady of Ludźmierz painting by Władysław Walczak-Baniecki, based on the iconographic model of the miraculous figure from Ludźmierz, depicts the figure of Our Lady holding the Child in her left arm and a decorative sceptre in her right hand. In his left hand the Child is holding a royal orb, the symbol of power held over the world, and is blessing the people with his right hand. There are crowns on the heads of both figures, surrounded by a glorious halo. Mary is wearing a dress and a mantel covering her back and shoulders; a veil falls down from beneath the crown to her shoulders, while Jesus has a long robe. The top composition is finished with two symmetrical styled rose flowers on leafy branches. Based on the rose motif, the decoration is well-known in nineteenth-century folk paintings on glass and harmonises in its colour scheme, in its careful form with the depiction of Our Lady with Child. Mother of God with Baby Jesus. The delicate drawing outline was made with a thin black stroke. The painting uses the colours of the Earth – rusty, natural sienna, whitened English pink and subdued shades of olive and chrome green with touches of gold at the clothing, crowns, halos, orb and flower ornament. The regularly placed dots, dashes and wavy lines depict the clothing folds and perform a decorative function. The background of the painting is black. The painting is signed at the bottom right corner. It is framed in a simple wooden frame, also black.
What attracts one’s attention in Baniecki’s work is the clear and simple composition, simplified drawing, subdued colour scheme and decorative character. By using the image of Our Lady of Ludźmierz from the sculpture, he tried to present Her in a composition layout that was compliant with the original, and his own interpretation of the theme is noticeable primarily in the ornamentation motifs and the colour scheme. The artists chose the colours of clothing and attributes according to their own painting concept with no reference to the iconographic model. In the painting the large folds of clothing in a shape similar to the letter “V” and the decorative border of mantle tied at the neck that can be seen at the front of the Gothic sculpture of Our Lady of Ludźmierz are interpreted as dress decorations.
The painting on glass technique enjoys particular interest in the Podhale region. It is highly interesting because the painting is painted on the inside of the glass, and the paints are applied to the glass in reserve order in comparison to painting on any other base. First, the figure and ornament outlines are drawn; then the artist paints the details to later fill the larger surfaces marked by the outline with paint and finish for the background. The painters often prepare the image sketches on paper, and they often act as the drawing base for painting on glass.
Władysław Walczak-Baniecki had some problems with drawing, but he was an excellent colourist who constantly enriched the range of colours used in his paintings. “He thought that the background was a field to be managed by painting, and came up with vibrant compositions of gold and a single selected colour. The result turned out to be an artistic revelation” (Aleksander Błachowski, Malarstwo na szkle [Painting on Glass], 2004). He constantly repeated some paintings over the years in a different colour scheme and with new ornamentation motifs.
He had been learning the painting on glass technique by himself since 1962. He made his debut as a painter in 1968 by taking part in the painting on glass competition organised by the Tatra Museum in Zakopane. He won first place in the folk artist category. Over time he became one of the most valued painters on glass in Podhale. In 2008 he received the Gloria Artis Silver Medal for Merit to Culture granted as a recognition of his merits to folk heritage by the Minister of Culture and National Heritage. The collection at the Tatra Museum houses 111 paintings on glass by Władysław Walczak-Baniecki, which document his artistic oeuvre from the years 1967–2005.

Elaborated by Zofia Rak (The Dr. Tytus Chałubiński Tatra Museum in Zakopane), © all rights reserved

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Paintings on glass

Paintings on glass are painted in  the opposite order to those painted on canvas or paper; first, contours are outlined, then they are filled with details, and finally colours are applied.
Owing to their vivid colour and durability, paintings made with this technique competed with woodcuts, which were very popular in folk culture and could be often encountered in farmyard and rural cottages; therefore, their creators began to combine woodcut...

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Paintings on glass are painted in  the opposite order to those painted on canvas or paper; first, contours are outlined, then they are filled with details, and finally colours are applied.
Owing to their vivid colour and durability, paintings made with this technique competed with woodcuts, which were very popular in folk culture and could be often encountered in farmyard and rural cottages; therefore, their creators began to combine woodcut with painting on glass (for example, they painted only a part of the glass surface; from under the rest of the glass pane, a piece of wood engraving was visible).
The origins of folk paintings on glass can be traced back to the middle-class paintings; in the 17th century, glassworks in Germany, the Czech Republic, Austria and Silesia produced this type of pictures on a large scale, at first for burghers, and then also for customers from the countryside.
Marian and Christological motifs, along with depictions of saints were predominant in folk paintings on glass (secular themes were rare).
The tradition of creating colourful depictions on glass dates back to antiquity. In the Middle Ages, coloured glass was used, among others, to create parts of reliquaries and to decorate altars.
Decorative objects made with this method became more popular in the 16th century, when glassworks began to be established in Europe. The increased availability of paintings on glass in bourgeois circles helped this form to begin to penetrate rural areas. Another reason was the popularisation of the Augsburg paintings painted with oils on glass during this period.
Painting on glass was popular from the late 18th century until the end of the 19th century.
Images of this kind were common throughout the Carpathians. Due to the fact that at the end of the 19th century, in the areas inhabited by highlanders, there were few churches, the presence of images of patron saints in houses seemed natural.
Wandering painting traders who climbed the mountains and reached villages situated even in the highest regions were called obraźnik.
The sale of paintings took the form of a ritual. First, after entering the house, obraźnik prayed with the members of the household to the paintings they already had. Then he read relevant fragments of the Gospel and praised the benefits of praying to the images he was selling. After the transaction was completed, the trader hung the newly bought image on the wall by himself. In this way, it was very difficult for the peasants to refuse the purchase and their home collection of paintings expanded almost naturally.
This form is characterised by a simple, flat drawing, which does not create a sense of a three-dimensional, static composition (except for scenes with highland robbers, which include some dynamics of motion), as well as the compositional symmetry.
In depictions of saints, they can usually be recognised due to their attributes.
Plant motifs are also typical of paintings on glass. Characters often have strongly highlighted cheeks (red circles).
Glass panes used for painting often constituted the production waste of glassworks (they had small bubbles or numerous imperfections). However, defects in the materials proved to be an advantage in the hands of an artist, providing an element of uniqueness in the work (bubbles actually enhanced the visual effect).
Usually, small panes were also used as it was easier for traders to transport them through the mountains.
As L. Lepszy wrote in 1921, the paintings on glass which can be seen in the museum space lost in some way a connection with their natural environment; that is, in the space of a dark peasant chamber, illuminated only by smoky candle light, they encouraged the household members to reflect, reinforced their religion, and became a part of the highlander’s soul and consciousness. The flickering coloured patches on the glass hid a lot more in itself and gave a sense of communion with the sacred.
An additional argument supporting the attractiveness of this form was its longer life-span (paintings on the glass wiped with a cloth recovered its former glory, unlike paintings on canvas which faded over time).
Painting on glass, unlike painting on canvas, where corrections are possible, does not tolerate random brush strokes (it is hard to hide mistakes here), so creators often underlay the glass pane with a previously prepared cardboard drawing.

Elaborated by Editorial team of Małopolska’s Virtual Museums,
Licencja Creative Commons

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

See also:
Painting on glass “Highland robbers — welcoming of Surowiec”

Painting on the glass Christ in the grave from Orava
Painting on glass “Our Lady with Child of Mariazell”

Painting on glass “Our Lady of Ludźmierz” by Władysław Walczak-Baniecki

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Painting on glass “Our Lady of Ludźmierz” by Władysław Walczak-Baniecki

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