Sunday, February 22, 2015

Franciszek Smuglewicz - Battle of Chocim AD1673

during XVIII century, the last century of Old Poland,  there was a bit of  blossoming of native Polish painters engaged in painting historical pieces, and neoclassical artist  Franciszek Smuglewicz was one of the first of this movement in Old Poland.
Pan Franciszek  started his art studies early, for at first studied at the attelier of his father and his father's friend and fellow artist Szymon Czechowicz, then went to Italy in 1763. In Italy our maestro of brush and paint,  studied in Rome (interested in the ancient Roman art, he was active in recording discovered art of the Nero's   Domus Aureus a and his work was featured in a collection of prints 'Vestigia delle Terme di Tito'), various schools and academies, and spent there about 20 years (some of his art studies were supported by our Russia-selected king Stanisław August Poniatowski), perfecting his talents and artistic craft.
In Old Poland, situated in Warsaw close to the royal court,  maestro Franciszek became a successful painter, including king's favors,and observer, through his art, of the political events taking place there, also painted political figures and historical events, ancient history, portraits, architecture, and worked on many church interiors eg this saint. Amongst his historical works there was an unfinished series of 100 drawings and prints, illustrations that  were to serve as illuminations for the Adam Naruszewicz's History of Polish Nation.
 Having moved to Wilno (Vilnus nowadays) after the Third Partition of Poland, he became the first dean of the new School of Arts at the Vilnus University. He painted and drawn many images of old Vilnus, having thus recorder the ancient appearance of this old princely city.
Sadly he did not live to enjoy the renewal of Polish state, Duchy of Warsaw, under Napoleon, dying in 1807 in Vilnus where he was buried (Cmentarz na Rossie)
The painting in question - Khotyn or Chocim AD 1673, great Polish-Lithuanian victory over the Ottoman Turks -  is perhaps unique in its martial character and national, Polish symbolism and in the fact that this is one of the first works recreating a historical event  painted by a Polish-born artist of this quality when it comes to skill, mastery and abilities of the painter. Also it is noteworthy that Smuglewicz, when a young man before his trip to Rome,  must have seen the last winged hussars wearing armour etc. Being a neoclassical painter he nevertheless shows some Baroque flair, and perhaps studied some of the XVII century paintings showing the very battle, perhaps including the Andrzej Stech's canvas.

This painting follows the tradition already started in the XVII century, when the images showed actual winged hussars, of showing our winged hussars as heavy armoured cavalrymen, with wild cats pelts, gilded armour, rich arms and horse tack,  fabulous horses and flamboyance. Interestingly we see no wings, but there are plenty of feathers on the hussar helmets and  also the wild cat pelts are clearly visible. Defending Turks also look quite Turkish, so to speak, although they seem to be anachronistically wearing their summer costumes, contrary to the actual attire worn during this cold November battle.

He also painted a battle of Warka AD 1656, where Stefan Czarniecki and Jerzy Lubomirski defeated the Swedish forces, cavalry and dragoons, and in this work we see Czarniecki at the head of his armoured cavalry (wined hussars were prominent in this victory) crossing our little Masovian  Pilica river to attack the Swedes.

Franciszek Smuglewicz heroic, winged hussars-horses-sabres, approach to painting of our Polish history was soon emulated and followed, first by Aleksander Orłowski, then January Suchodolski and countless Polish painters off the XIX and early XX century.
great,  2-guitar interpretation of Isaac Albeniz' Asturias (Leyenda) 

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