Maybe it is something worth a consideration to allocate Warsaw's National Museum collection of old art in the early 17th century's Ujazdowski Castle and/or late 19th century Zachęta building, and move and join together all modern and contemporary art collections in a more suitable modern edifice. The economised space in the current MNW's building could be used for exhibition of Chinese or Russian art.
The painting, imbued with a good humor, is a satire of manners so frequent in the works of Peredvizhniki (Wanderers) movement. It is otherwise known as On a stroll or A walk in the countryside. Just like the other realists who wandered the Russian countryside, Kuznetsov is capturing ambience, family life and local character in lighter palette freed from artistic restrictions of the academies. The sentimental approach to the countryside combining realism with an emotional attachment to the Russian folk, are visible in the work.
The artist is striving for naturalness of the depiction. In the meticulous mimic of the three strolling person, two young and an old woman, manifests narrative talents and observation skills of the painter (Instytut Polsko-Radziecki (1954), Kwartalnik Instytutu Polsko-Radzieckiego, Volume 3, Państwowe Wydawnictwo Naukowe, p. 110).
Grotesque looking old lady on the right, possibly mother of a young girl opposite, is dressed in a crimson dress. The young bachelor dressed according to contemporary Russian fashion is proposing a stroll to his bride – a young bright hair girl with a dachshund. The whole scene was placed in an entourage of a birch alley, a symbol of spring, love and virginal purity in Russian folklore, at the entrance to the wood. Is is in this way an emanation of beauty of the folk way of life and people's relation with surrounding world.
The canvas was signed in cyrillic and dated by the artist on bottom right: Н. Кузнецовъ. 85 (N. Kuznetsov. 85).
oil on canvas, 1885, 54 × 47.5 cm (21.3 × 18.7 in), inventory number M.Ob.470, currently not on permanent display, Muzeum Narodowe w Warszawie (MNW)
The picture depicts two houses and a shed divided with a fence in the right and a small stream in the left. The colours are somber and calm. The modest dwellings are set against a landscape with high trees.
It was created during van Gogh's visit in Hoogeveen, in the province of Drenthe. The landscape there is sandy, soggy and swampy, but the artist found it still, peaceful and indescribably beautiful. He expressed it in some 22 letters written in the fall of 1883 from September to November.
He went on long trips to explore surrounding moors and landscape untouched by industrial development visible in larger communities. Inspired by the work of Jean-François Millet, the artist become increasingly interested in peasant lifestyle, determined by nature. The subordinate to nature is visible in architecture, thatch-covered farm buildings are unobtrusive, they follow the nature and fit into it. This is reflected in colour, the soil and dwellings are integrated.
oil on canvas mounted on panel, 1883, 28.5 × 39.5 cm (11.2 × 15.6 in), Muzeum Kolekcji im. Jana Pawła II (Galeria Porczyńskich)
The portrait is a version of king's effigy created by Hans Holbein the Younger in 1537 as part of a mural in the Whitehall Palace. The original was destroyed by fire in 1698, however the popularity of image resulted in numerous copies possibly commissioned by the king himself. They are similar in pose but with great variation in details. It is almost certain that the author known the model. Good quality, more linear and more precise composition and individuality in style and detail of the Warsaw's portrait proofs the circle of the master and possibly Flemish school of Lucas Horenbout.
The portrait conveys the powerful personality and royal dignity without standard accoutrements.The effigy fills out the entire space and shows Henry VIII in his mid forties endowed with considerable psychological depth. After a bad tiltyard accident in 1536, he appears to be more conscious on his own mortality.
The sitter was made more imposing and younger then in reality. The face is static and is looking directly at the spectator. He is clutching gloves with his right hand, while left thumb is hooked around a belt that holds the dagger.
The profuse garment is also an expression of power and authority. The king wears an ermine-lined and embroided navy blue overgown with split hanging sleeves over a brocade jerkin and an embroidered and slashed doublet. Sleeves and doublet are paned and fastened with jewels. A black "halo" hat and a circular chain adds up to the impression of divinity. In Warsaw's version the king is more youthful, less tired, less aggressive and less defiant then in original version. Enormous codpiece, partially hidden under the skirts of the jerkin, emphasizes Henry's virility and masculinity capable to secure the future of the dynasty.
The portrait is almost identical with a version in the Royal Collection dated c.1570-1599 (inventory number 404107), although the British one is of much lower quality, especially when it comes to face modelling.
oil on oak, 1540s, 106 × 79 cm (41.7 × 31.1 in), inventory number 128165, currently not on permanent display, Muzeum Narodowe w Warszawie (MNW)
It was described as the first painting by the artist presented to Polish audience, according to Henryk Piątkowski. Although not acclaimed by critics, it was very innovative at that time with subtle colours, neutral tones and unique composition.
The composition clearly refers to Whistler's Arrangement in Grey and Black No.1. Boznańska become acquainted with his art during her studies in Munich. The artist used several tones of just few colours.
The pose and subtle reserve of the sitter alludes to the style of Velázquez. She also employed the same technique of dabs or brushstrokes of pure color intended to blend into a strikingly realistic image.The voluminous crinoline of Velázquez's infantas is replaced with an umbrella. The girl had gathered some flowers on a rainy day of spring.
The artist, who excelled in the portraiture, made full use of her artistic and analytical skills in the present portrait. Just as Velázquez she was too honest to flatter. Pale countenance of the model and not very attractive face contribute to this effect. There is a particular focus on the figure emphasized with a tight bodice. Harmonic and refined palette proofs Boznańka's skills as a colourist.
The painting depicting a young sitting woman with an umbrella was presented in the Warsaw's Krywult Salon in 1889. Soon the title From a walk was conceived. It was acquired in 1920 by the National Museum in Kraków from the collection of Feliks Jasieński.
oil on canvas, 1889, 161.5 × 100 cm (63.6 × 39.4 in), inventory number MNK II-b-884, currently not on permanent display, Muzeum Narodowe w Krakowie (MNK)
The original painting created around 1519 and preserved in the Metropolitan Museum of Art (oil on panel, 60 × 49.8 cm (23.6 × 19.6 in), inventory number 14.40.633) belonged to Gabriel Tucher of Nuremberg, a member of a family of passionate collectors of art. In 1630 it was purchased by Elector Maximilian I of Bavaria and held at the castle of Schleissheim until the mid-nineteenth century. The subsequent repainting and the poor state of preservation devalued the work, which was sold at auction as a copy of Dürer. According to Bayersdorfer the Warsaw's copy could have been produced as a condition of sale during the transactions that led to Elector's acquisition of the work in 1630, although the date, 1523, is not questionable.
Albertina in Vienna holds a preparatory drawing for the figure of St. Anne (1519), painted in brush with gray highlights on dark background. In 1519 Dürer became an ardent follower of Martin Luther, hence the composition is interpreted as inspired by his teachings and possibly by Giovanni Bellini, whose work Dürer admired during his sojourn in Venice.
The artist's wife, Agnes Frey, is considered as a model for Saint Anne's effigy. Agnes, then in her fifties, was dressed according to contemporary fashion reserved for married women. Her figure, monumental and reassuring, dominates the picture and the scene. Her face is vigilant and protective, her hand resting on the shoulder of her daughter Mary. The face of the Virgin is sweet and absorbed by contemplation of sleeping Child. Baby Jesus is wrapped in swaddling clothes and portrayed realistically with open mouth showing two teeth. The whole scene is intended as a premonition of Christ's Passion and death.
The composition with the heads of the two women inclined towards each other was set in a triangle and concentrates on hands clasped in prayer.
Less studied and less gentle then the original version, suggest that the Warsaw painting was accomplished by disciples. In the 19th century it belonged to Sir Francis Cook (1817-1901) and in 1984 it was acquired from Sotheby's by the Porczyńskis.
oil on panel, 1523, 75 × 64.5 cm (29.5 × 25.4 in), Muzeum Kolekcji im. Jana Pawła II (Galeria Porczyńskich)
The painting is considered as one of the best examples of Chełmoński's animalist work. Contrary to the realistic trends, he expressed here his pantheistic beliefs that surrounding world composes an all-encompassing, immanent God. The scene was observed one winter morning of 1891.
Precise study of the birds and almost monochrome background of the endless field adds to the harmony and artistry of the image. "White snowy plain and a flock of quietly scurrying, anxious partridges in the foreground - nothing more!", as described the work Zenon Przesmycki-Miriam in 1901 in his review published in "Chimera". "Chełmoński created herein, as nature itself creates", he added and emphasized "wonderful intuition" in depicting the nature.
Inspiration by Japanese art, with its fine watercolor studies of birds, is clearly visible in the composition and tones. The snow covering the field is pearl-gray, with a slight glare of pink. The birds, masterly observed in a variety of poses, lose their readability in floating snow dust. They are succumbed to the to the power of nature, and yet they are an integral part of it. Their Latin name Perdix perdix is similar to the word perditus signifying lost, hence interpreted sometimes as a symbol of human's fate or as an allegory of the nation after Partitions of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Alternatively just as mythological Perdix, an ingenious inventor turned into a bird by goddes Athena, who mindful of his fall avoids high places, as an incentive to bold acts against oppressors.
The composition was created in Kuklówka, near Grodzisk Mazowiecki in Mazovia, where the artist retreated at the height of his fame in 1887. It was awarded with honorary diploma at the International Art Exhibition in Berlin in 1891 and in Vienna at the exhibition of the Society of Polish Artists in 1902. Reception was very enthusiastic and Chełmoński was compared with the famous Swedish animalist Bruno Liljefors. In 1902 the Partridges were also exhibited in Zachęta in Warsaw.
The piece was donated to the National Museum in Warsaw in 1946 by Józef Jasiński and included in the collection under the number 128112. The canvas was signed and dated by the artist in lower right corner - Józef Chełmoński / 1891.
oil on canvas, 1891, 123 × 199 cm (48.4 × 78.3 in), inventory number MP 424, on permanent display in the Gallery of 19th century art, Muzeum Narodowe w Warszawie (MNW)
The painting depicts naked Venus resting in a sophisticated pose on a background of a landscape with river and a mill. Beauty of the Goddess is not artifical hence we can assume to portray a real model, possibly a courtesan with elaborately cascading bleached-blond curls. Amor, with malicious and capricious expression on his face, hands over two arrows to his mother - one brings love the other one unhappiness. Love is blind, and sometimes cruel, and Cupid, son of Venus, cannot spare even his own mother from such unpleasant experience.
The model introduced by Giorgione in his Sleeping Venus had a prototype in a woodcut of a sleeping nymph propagated in Francesco Collonna's romance "Hypnerotomachia Poliphili" published in 1499, which itself derived from an ancient statue depicting sleeping Ariadne or Cleopatra. Images of Venus and Cupid in the landscape were a favorite motif of the golden age of Venetian painting, especially in the circle of Giorgione and Titian. The artist studied briefly with Titian from whom he acquired the concept of reclining nude, possibly poetically inspired and with epithalamic meaning. Bordone become one of the most successful followers in the type known as Titianesque nude.
According to Keith Christiansen the ancient marriage poems known as epithalamia were reflected in visual arts in depiction of Amor urging his mother to raise from her bower and give her blessing to the brides. The goddess is holding a myrtle wreath. The plant is specifically associated with matrimony as stressed in Catullus poetry freely translated in 1538 by Venetian author Ludovico Dolce. Such paintings were usually commissioned as a wedding gift to ensure happiness and fertility of marriage. The Arcadian landscape was frequently linked with the subject of love in the mid 16th century. Venus in the foreground seems to be a natural inhabitant of Arcadia - the embodiment of the secrets of nature. Naked Venus was also conceived as a personification of the innate beauty - pulchritudo innata, as opposed to artificial charms - ornamentum.
The painting is softly modelled, harmonious and full of scattered light and vivid colors. It was possibly created for Francis, second duke of Guise for the chamber shared by the duke and his wife Anna d'Este of Ferrara. This provenance would also arrange later history of the painting in geographically logical order, however the date of creation should be moved to the years 1558-59, when according to Vasari the artist painted uno da camera di Venere e Cupido (one of Venus and Cupid for his bedroom), during his stay in France. In first half of the 17th century the picture came into possession of a renowned painter Sir Peter Lely in London, and in 1682 it was purchased at an auction of Lely's collection by Anthony Gray, 11th Earl of Kent for £105. Later it was in the collection of Ayerst Hooker Buttery, to be acquired by Karl Haberstock from Otto Neumann in 1928, and then by Adolf Hitler from Haberstock in 1936. The painting adorned Führer's residence at Berghof near Berchtesgaden. In postwar chaos the painting was mistakenly identifed as one of the paintings looted by the Germans from the National Museum in Warsaw. Since such property evidently cannot be reclaimed it was not returned to Germany and included in the museum's collection under the number 187158.
oil on canvas, 1545-1550 (1558-59), 95 × 143 cm (37.4 × 56.3 in), inventory number M.Ob.628, on permanent display in the Gallery of Old European Painting III, Muzeum Narodowe w Warszawie (MNW)
The image shows a family gathered in the garden of a suburban residence. Beautiful garden with a fountain is an allusion to the jardin d'amour - the Garden of Love, medieval motive which thanks to a combination of symbols becomes a representation and substitute of Eden. Painter arranged the figures in a natural way, gazing towards the viewer, especially a little boy in the foreground, who turns to see the guest. The composition is based on the diagonal line, which in order to obtain depth intersect the vertical elements and further underlined areas of light and shadow. Light comes frontally to emphasize the central figure of the proud mother of the family.
According to signature, the painting was created by the artist shortly after his arrival to Spain in 1679. It is one of two versions of the composition preserved, the other one, previously dated 1680, is in Prado. Despite the efforts of Juan Ramón Sánchez del Peral y López to force the earlier dating of the Prado's version (El retrato español en el Prado. Del Greco a Goya, Museo Nacional del Prado, 2006, p. 128), there are certain details which proofs that the Warsaw's painting is the original verison of the composition, that was remodelled after the death of one of the protagonists. It is the elder man dressed in black in the right corner at the door. The man in his fifties and in attire typical for older generation that was fashionable in 1640s to 1650s is probably a husband of richly dressed lady in the center. This man is not present in the Prado's version, while the younger man, playing the guitar and hidden behind the husband in Warsaw's painting replaced the deceased in Prado's version. It seems that his death also marked the features of the sitting lady. Her face is sad and marked by grief in Prado's painting. The younger man with consolable features and strongly resembling the sitting woman, a brother probably, is now the head of the family.
The attires of the protagonists are typically Spanish for the period. Also the features are more likely to represent people from the south, possibly representatives of a merchant family of Dupont from Tournai well integrated into the Spanish society of the epoch.
The artist portrayed himself with a palette at the window in upper center in the act of writing his signature. The signature below the window states Van Kessel 1679 Pinxit Matriti with the place of execution also indicated (Madrid). According to Acisclo Antonio Palomino de Castro y Velasco and his An account of the lives and works of the most eminent Spanish painters ... published in 1739, the artist arrived to Spain in 1680 and was employed by his countryman. For his protector, he painted "a large Family-piece (...) representing him to the life with his wife and children (...) and in it, himself, likewise drawn to the life, putting his head out of a window, to write his name on the wall (pp. 161-162).
The painting is filled with symbols. Servants carrying various meals is a personification of joy and abundance. Conjugal love is represented by pairs of birds and young brides who hold their hands in solemn shake. They may be the parents of two children portrayed at the bottom of the scene. Horse is associated with prudence, loyalty, fidelity and zeal, in addition to pride, physical strength and power, doves are symbol of peace, hollyhocks symbolize fertility and sweetness, while cranes could have a heraldic meaning, they symbolize good governance and prudence to direct vassals and representing the ecstatic and transcendent life. Fidelity would be another virtue that adorns good families. Thus, the old man with the dog at his feet could be related to marital virtues like loyalty and companionship.
Colors and technique are typical for the Flemish painting of the period while depth of characteristic, bordering on caricature, is typical for contemporary Spanish painting and its grotesque naturalism.
The painting was purchased in 1956 from private collection and included in the collection of the National Museum in Warsaw under the number 211910.
oil on canvas, 1679, 126 × 167 cm (49.6 × 65.7 in), inventory number M.Ob.813, currently not on permanent display, Muzeum Narodowe w Warszawie (MNW)
The painting is one of the most remarkable works by the artist. On the background of the lowland landscape with a meadow and a pine forest, some unrealistic, luminous forms with shackled hands were placed in a floating cloud of dust.
The main character is frequently identified as Polonia, personification of Poland, although the woman is not anymore a beautiful vivid young woman known from other works. The specter emerges from a sandy road supported by her offspring, becoming the emanation of the nation and a reference to the fate of the enslaved homeland. Alternatively, the female figure is identified as Południca (Lady Midday), dangerous demon of the field causing heatstrokes and madness.
The landscape is monotonous and simplified almost to the limit. In the 1890s Malczewski defined his own style of landscape composition, creating a synthesis of landscape pictures based on real nature studies, intentionally remodelled to convey additional meaning, and haunted by real and otherworldly beings.
A stripe of dense trees opens to the sky only at its extreme end, like a hermetic hope in a war that, through pain and suffering, is leading to a well-deserved liberation. No more Congress Kingdom, no more vassal states under the tsarist autocracy, Poland wants independence that guarantees the democratic order. It can be also interpreted as purely eschatological perspective, the ultimate destiny of humanity or the nation.
The work was created for Count Edward Raczyński, during the artist's stay at his estate in Rogalin and inspired by local landscape. Malczewski signed and dated the work in upper right corner of the canvas Rogalin 1893 J Malczewski and inscribed on reverse with the titleW tumanie / J Malczewski 1894.
oil on canvas, 1893-1894, 78 × 150 cm (30.7 × 59.1 in), inventory number Mp 1386, on permanent display in the Hall of Polish Painting of the Rogalin Palace Gallery, Muzeum Narodowe w Poznaniu (MNP)
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