King Stanislaw Augustus believed he had 12 Rembrandts in his collection, in fact he may have had three of them, including the “Polish Knight”.
Who is “Polish Jeździec”? It’s a great puzzle
Rembrandt painted “The Polish Rider” circa 1655, so it is an example of the later period of his work. The authorship is confirmed by the research of scientists from the Rembrandt Research Project and is beyond doubt. The work is also known as “Lisowczyk”. To this day, it is not known who conceived the painting.
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As professor. Zbigniew Wawer, director of the Royal Łazienki Museum in Warsaw, “Lisowszczyk” is a painting that does not fit into Rembrandt’s entire work:
This is a question that we do not have a 100% answer to. Could Lisowszczyk see? Did he use other materials – someone else drew and used?
Dr. Xavier Solomon, deputy director and chief curator of Frick Group in New York, added that the identity of the portrait’s hero has been discussed several times, with one scholar arguing that the woman was immortalized in it. “Nevertheless, I think that great masterpieces have the advantage of meaning different things to different people, at different times, he said, acknowledging that the titles “Lisowicek” and “Polish Horseman” testify to the great value which Rembrandt’s painting was to the Poles.
As you can read on Łazienki Królewskie in Warsaw, a Rembrandt painting was shown to Stanislaw August in 1791 by Misha Kazimierz Oginsky, the great Lithuanian hetman, opposite the orange trees of the Royal Gardens. The “Polish Knight” hung in the hall on the first floor of the Island Palace, which was the king’s beloved summer residence. After Stanisław August 1795 abdicated and left the country, the painting remained in azienki. The organizers wrote: “At the end of the 1890s, it was hung in the picture gallery on the ground floor of the palace, where it will now be presented to the public.” You will be able to see it in a copy of the frame in which it was presented in Warsaw over 200 years ago. It was specially recreated for the occasion.
What happened to “Lisowczyk” after Stanisław August’s death?
When the king’s heirs sold the collection of Stanisław Augustus paintings in succession, the “Polish Knight” from 1814 found its way into the collection of other art lovers. In 1910, the painting was purchased from Zdzisław Tarnowski by American financier, industrialist, art patron, and antique collector Henry Clay Frick. For many years, the sale sparked controversy among the public. Dr. Solomon emphasized at the press conference that the money from the sale was not used for balls or games, but it was a patriotic act at a time when Poland was not on the map of Europe to buy Polish land. – This is undoubtedly one of the most valuable works of art ever associated with Poland – emphasized Dr. Dorota Juszczak, Curator of Painting at the Royal Łazienki Museum in Warsaw, adding:
If the painting remained in Dzików and was not sold by the Tarnowskis, it likely burned in 1927. A copy of the painting, possibly the original frame in which it was hung, was then burnt.
The Dutch master was suspended after this deal in the interiors of an elegant mansion on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, New York. After Frick’s death, his family seat was converted into a museum.
How did it happen that after so many years “Polish Jeździec” returned to the Royal Łazienki Garden for a while? This was made possible by the relocation of the Frick Group to a temporary building while the historic bench was being renovated. Thanks to this, after about 200 years, it will be possible to see the painting in the island palace. From May 6 to 8, free of charge, from May 10 as part of the entrance ticket to the facilities (PLN 40 – regular ticket, PLN 20 – reduced, PLN 1 – for children; free on Fridays).
No wonder the painting’s arrival at azienki Królewskie was surrounded by a bodyguard, which can be seen in the video posted on the museum’s profile.
“Polish Jeździec” from Warsaw will go to Krakow, where it will be shown at the Wawel.
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