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On women and other demons...
The art collection from the Tatra Museum features several dozens of works by Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz, aka Witkacy. These include landscapes, drawings and portraits. Among the works depicting by Nena Stachurska, Bronisława Włodarska, Janina Turowska-Leszczyńska and Józef Fedorowicz, there are two images of a lady whose first and last name is unknown.

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On women and other demons... 

The art collection from the Tatra Museum features several dozens of works by Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz, aka Witkacy. These include landscapes, drawings and portraits. Among the works depicting by Nena Stachurska, Bronisława Włodarska, Janina Turowska-Leszczyńska and Józef Fedorowicz, there are two images of a lady whose first and last name is unknown. Let us have a closer look at one of them. Witkacy painted this portrait in 1922, even before the official appearance of the S.I. Witkiewicz Portrait Company in the Czesław Garliński’s Salon in Warsaw in 1925. The painting was received by the Tatra Museum as early as 1954.
The mysterious lady looks menacingly and seductively at the same time. She has an oval face, a long straight nose, and a clenched mouth twisted in a strange smile. The unruly wavy hair is pinned up. Her half-closed, dark-grey eyes are looking straight ahead at the viewer from raised, sharply outlined black eyebrows. The woman is wearing a red coat tied at the neck which opens at the chest to show the pink lining and white semi-transparent blouse. The whole look is completed with pearl earrings. The lady in the portrait is definitely an elegant woman and, judging by the face expression, a self-confident one.
Her first and last names are not known. However, one might say that she is an ideal example of a “demonic woman”. What is this demonism? According to the dictionary definition, “demonic” means devilish, evil, but also enigmatic and mysterious. Witkacy’s demonism is strongly related to eroticism and gender. It is a woman’s specific charm which helps her to subordinate man to her. This charm stems from her beauty as well as her sexuality. The woman is primarily focused on her carnality and material aspects of reality, and she is not capable of having experiences of a metaphysical nature — “the female world, (...) filth where bodies, souls and dresses are just alluring supplements to the independently living sex organs”. Man often cannot liberate himself from his lover's influence. Even those apparently faithful and devoted can manipulate their victim and lead them to the execution of a self-appointed goal. Entangled in the net of looks, smiles, caresses, lies and tears, man is stuck in a trap and is a lovely toy for the demon. What is interesting is that in this world a woman’s attractiveness does not diminish with age. On the contrary, all the spoils are hers. When experienced, she is even more mysterious and interesting, even to younger men (e.g., Akne, the protagonist from 622 upadków Bunga [The 622 Downfalls of Bungo]).
Witkacy frequently portrayed demonic women for his audience. One can see them in the pages of his novels, plays, and many portraits. A demon may be characterised as “girly” or “feline”, but it may also be a lady — a beautiful mature woman aware of both her sexuality and the value of the male-female lover relationship; a woman who finds it pervasively pleasant to play, oppress and humiliate men who are fascinated by her.

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

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Painting “Portrait of a woman” by Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz

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