A group of Polish kings and princes by Jan Matejko

A group of Polish kings and princes by Jan Matejko.

Polish kings and princes, painted by Jan Matejko, can be called without exaggeration one of the key works of Polish art. These images of successive Polish rulers (which are additionally accompanied by Dobrawa, wife of Mieszko I, Rycheza Lorraine and Anna Jagiellonka) because they create Poles' ideas about their own past. One can trust the painter's vision all the more, that the artist did not rely solely on the free play of his imagination, but he took the idea very seriously. The series was created in the years 1890-1892 and was the last completed work by Matejko. The fact may be surprising, that the originals of the Post are not very big (because more or less A4 format), pencil portraits. After all, Matejko got the audience used to creating monumental canvases - paradoxically, it was these modest drawings that earned him an indelible memory among posterity.

Unusual order

The inspiration to create this extraordinary work was the initiative of the Viennese publisher, Maurice Perles, who planned to publish an illustrated history of Poland. Knowing Matejko's achievements in the field of historical painting and respectability, what his canvases enjoy, he asked the painter to choose some fragments of the already created paintings, which would best play their part in this kind of book. Matejko, on the other hand, made a proposal, that he will paint portraits of all Polish rulers - yes, so that they become a contribution to telling Polish history. He also offered, that the finished count will be accompanied by a historical commentary, prepared by a specialist from the Jagiellonian University.

Forty-four portraits

Matejko took his plan very seriously. The artist tried to find as many reliable historical sources as possible, that would put his imagination on the right track - yes, that each created image is as close to the real image as possible. Therefore, working on the Post Office did not require so much effort in drawing portraits, how much to look for substantive foundations for them. As we know from the notes of Secretary Matejko, the painter carefully studied, among others, the Chronicle of Długosz, he observed the nuances in the works of art preserved at Wawel (especially tombstones), and even was present during the exhumation of Queen Jadwiga's grave. Each graphic representation of a ruler is rich in significant detail, which symbolically describe the characteristic features of a given character or time, in which she lived. Although the drawings were made in pencil, working with them was tedious enough, that the artist himself was afraid, will he manage to complete this ambitious work.

The Ready Mail became the property of Perler. W 1916 year the work was bought from him by a Polish collector, Bolesław Orzechowicz. Before his death, he handed over his collections to Lviv, and after World War II, all Polish cultural treasures present in Lviv went to Wrocław. To this day, the mail is kept in the local branch of the National Museum, but for the eyes of visitors it is only occasionally available, due to the great delicacy of the drawings.