Friday, February 2, 2018

Gdansk - Dantiscum and Polish riders circa 1620

Salvete Omnes,
so we have started a new month in this still somewhat young 2018.
Circa AD 1620 the northwestern, maritime, parts of Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth were rather peaceful and one coastal town was then the finest city of the entire Crown of Kingdom of Poland.
 It had been known then either as Gdansk, or  Danzig or Dantiscum [Latin]. Populated mostly by German burghers who were rather very fine Polish Crown citizen, with a large native population of Polish minority known as Kaszubi [Kashubians], and many emigrants from all over Europe and a fine Cistercian monastery at Oliwa near by. Her ports full of vessels from all over Europe, as this one a city of trade and commerce and manufacturing.
Since her access to the Crown of Kingdom of Poland in 1452 Gdansk was the principal town of the Royal Prussia and the jewel of the Crown, but not without its thorns... however, the city citizens were the most faithful subjects of the Kingdom (except for their small but rather bloody rebellion against king Stefan Bathory - they were horribly slaughtered by the winged hussars at Lubieszow AD 1577) and kept their oaths for the remainder of  Old Poland enduring sieges and invasions by foreign forces, that is until the Prussian Crown betrayal of Polish allies and annexation of the city along with Polish lands in 1793 during the 2nd Partition of Poland.
Ad rem, In the early 1600s Gdansk was very prosperous and vibrant, with the Vistula River providing steady stream of agricultural fruits of the Polish interiors and noblemen coming to buy sumptuous goods produced there or brought in by the Dutch merchants (principally), great wealth was apparent and wealthy patrons abundant thus drawing many artists and artisans.  (libre book in Polish on the preserved drawings from Gdansk from the last quarter of XVI century and first half of XVII century)
One of such artists was Jan [Hans] Krieg, a native of Speicherdorf, now a part of Kalinigrad ( Krolewiec - Konigsberg) in Ducal Prussia, son of Mennonite emigrants from  Holland or Holy Roman Empire. Ducal Prussia was then part of Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth so he could move around rather freely, and thus upon his travels and education abroad he finally settled in Gdansk where he painted and drew, married and eventually converted to Catholicism, and after the death of his wife became a monk at the famous Cistercian monastery at Pelplin, a bit south of Gdansk, where he worked beautifying the abbey church and .. assuredly praying a bit. 
Nota bene both Oliwa and Pelplin monasteries suffered losses as to their libraries  during the Swedish Deluge, and their manuscript collections are in large part located in Sweden, and  later the Prussian kings finished the monsateries, for it was the enlightened Prussian Crown who abolished both abbeys and took their libraries and accumulated wealth for themselves during the Partitions of Poland.
Only thanks to the local Polish and Polish-Kashubian population and the Polish Catholic Church that the churches and some of the artwork survived and some of the treasures can be viewed when visiting the monasteries in present day Poland.
painting with the panoramic view of Gdansk

two Polish riders, perhaps one is a winged hussar officer - due to a mace in his right hand - and the second may be a winged hussar towarzysz (comrade) or officer's retainer. Footman is a local Danzig dandy, dressed aina western fashion but in Polish national colors ie. red, with another rider behind in the background on a grey horse. The longish but narrow red schabraque on the bay horse seems to be typical of the 1620-30s period as seen in other Polish paintings showing Polish military of this pre-1650s period.
 I am sure I  will have more images related to XVI-XVII century Gdansk.


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