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St. Kinga was presented in art in two ways – as a young person in a rich princess’s costume or as an older nun in the Poor Clare habit. Jan Matejko made a deliberate statement of both conventions and portrayed St. Kinga at the age of around 60, in the princess’s robe and with attributes referring to her life at the Poor Clares Monastery (prayer book, crosier, view of the Monastery in Stary Sącz). The model for the character was Countess Katarzyna Adamowa Potocka, known from another portrait painted by Matejko – this time in a contemporary outfit.

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The painting shows St. Kinga (the Pope accepted her worship in 1690, but she was canonized only in 1999).
It shows the figure of a kneeling woman, around 60 years old, dressed as a princess. Kinga is turned slightly to the right, kneeling on both knees on a stone (resembling a lump of salt). Her hands are clasped and her palms are turned to the outside; a thick, coral rosary is wrapped on the right wrist. The face is shown as if it were straight ahead and her eyes are directed upwards. The figure is covered with a loose, dark brown cloak, tied around the neck. A white embroidered eagle is visible on the red dress. The face is wrapped around the chin. On her head, there is a ducal crown, densely planted with pearls, and from under it, flows a thick plaited head scarf over the shoulders. There is a pastoral and a thick prayer book near the knees on the left. The silhouette is shown against the background of the landscape, with a chain of high mountains on the left and a valley with the Monastery of Stary Sącz on the right. The sky is overcast, but there is radiant light breaking over the head of St. Kinga.
The painting was created for the jubilee of the 600th anniversary of the death of St. Kinga (then still blessed), celebrated in Stary Sącz in 1892. Eventually, however, the painting did not make it to the Poor Clares Monastery. The image was purchased from the author, by Count Jerzy Dunin-Borkowski from Lviv, and his granddaughter – Józefa from Dunin-Borkowski Sobogal – inherited it; from whom, in 1971, it was purchased for the Kraków Salt Works Museum in Wieliczka.
St. Kinga is a hero of folk tales and legends, to which the props in the picture refer: a ring thrown by her into the salt mine in Hungary, which was later found in Wieliczka (or in Bochnia, as others prefer), and turned into a rosary, which she threw over herself while fleeing from the Tatars.
After the death of her husband, Prince Bolesław V the Chaste (1279), she founded the Poor Clares Monastery in Stary Sącz and, after endowing it with her privilege in 1280, she lived in it until her death. For this reason, the monastery also found its place in the painting.
St. Kinga was presented in art in two ways – as a young person in a rich princess’s costume or as an older nun in the Poor Clare habit. Jan Matejko made a deliberate statement of both conventions and portrayed St. Kinga at the age of around 60, in the princess’s robe and with attributes referring to her life at the Poor Clares Monastery (prayer book, crosier, view of the Monastery in Stary Sącz). The model for the character was Countess Katarzyna Adamowa Potocka, known from another portrait painted by Matejko – this time in a contemporary outfit.
In 1892, Jan Matejko undertook to paint another image of the Blessed Kinga for the chapel of her name in the parish church in Bochnia. The presented photograph of the described painting, showing the saint as a princess in an old age, did not please the miners who ordered it. Matejko made a new drawing, showing Kinga as a young woman dressed in ermine. According to this sketch, the oil painting for the church in Bochnia was painted in 1893, by Władysław Rossowski. It is currently present in the altar designed by Jan Matejko, in a chapel decorated with polychrome – also designed by J. Matejko (modelled on the polychrome of the Church of St. Mary in Kraków).

Elaborated by Marek Skubisz (Kraków Salt Works Museum in Wieliczka), © all rights reserved

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Painting “St. Kinga praying in the mountains” by Jan Matejko

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