What were coffin portraits in old Poland

Coffin portraits have already appeared in ancient Egypt. It is true that in this case it is difficult to talk about attaching a portrait to a coffin, there was simply no such thing at the burial. These were the portraits of the deceased, most often from the highest circles of dignitaries. The coffin portrait appears as a category in baroque Poland. From the end of the sixteenth century until the entire seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, such portraits were popular with the nobility, even the poorest. At that time, burial was as important as a modern wedding. When a famous person died, preparations for the funeral ceremony took several months. Invitations to such a ceremony were sent to the most distant places. No wonder then, that coffin portrait, which was an indispensable part of the ceremony gained so much importance. Specialists emphasize, that the first known and important for the culture of the time coffin portrait was that of King Stefan Batory. It was on his coffin that the portrait was placed in this way, as if he was looking at his subjects for the last time. This type of portrait placement was quickly picked up and used extensively. Apart from the portrait, coats of arms were also an important element, but they were standing beside the coffin. First, coffin portraits, along with the coffin, went to the crypt. Over time it was recognized, that they should be more exposed. So the portraits were placed in churches. This custom was practiced especially then, when a person has contributed to the church, parish community. With time, ornaments were added to the portraits. The coffin portrait also began to be popular not only among the nobility, but also the lower class. After the death of the deceased, the painter was invited to his house, which he was supposed to take a suitable portrait. Sometimes already existing portraits were used, on which the painter modeled himself. More often, however, the embalmed corpse of the deceased served as a model. Coffin portraits had one more task. Died, for the last time somehow, he was to be a participant in earthly life. Therefore, special attention was paid to the fidelity of the deceased's facial features. Just the head, face, were supposed to be the most important. The remaining elements were simplified as much as possible, although the color of the garments was very bright. This was to emphasize the pale and noble features of the deceased's face. The portraits of men and women were slightly different. The characters in the female portraits were equipped with rich jewelry, jewels: earrings, brooches, kolie, necklaces. A sophisticated hairstyle was also always emphasized. Already in the first half of the eighteenth century, the coffin portrait began to change its shape, which consequently led to its disappearance. It is true that the middle nobility and wealthy townspeople still ordered polygon-shaped portraits for their relatives, it was already a wealthy magnate and higher clergy who ordered oval portraits of a completely different character. The figure itself in the portrait has changed. In the old convention, the painted figure seemed to look at the funeral participants, in the new one - her gaze was directed somewhere further, as if into the afterlife. The old coffin portrait has irrevocably changed.