Poland, 1863 by Jan Matejko

Poland, 1863 by Jan Matejko
Poland, 1863 by Jan Matejko

The geopolitical map of Europe in the 19th century was very different from today. There were countries today that did not exist as such since they were divided into countless independent states from each other. While other territories were subject to the great powers of the time. In this last section enter Poland which in the middle of the century was under the control of three much more powerful countries: Russia, Austria and Prussia. So just as it happened in Italy or in Greece, revolutionary processes and confrontations were going to take place here too to achieve unity and independence.


Jan Matejko's Poland

That's what this painting by the Polish painter Jan Matejko alludes to. A large 156 x 232 cm canvas that now hangs in the rooms of the National Museum of Krakow, and which is titled Poland, 1863, alluding to an unsuccessful attempt by the Polish people to free themselves from Russian power.

In reality, that defeat for the artist and a large part of Polish intellectuals considers it a triumph. After the merciless crushing of the rebellion and armed conflict, the Poles decided to deal with it in another way. Devoting himself to work to achieve the cultural and civic unity of the Polish people.

In this purpose, Matejko actively participated, dedicating several paintings thatThey will proudly display the history of their nation. He made a whole series of events from the past with a clear sobering intention. But the only one that showed the present was this one, since he painted it just one year after those events, that is, in 1864. But of course the treatment he gives to that painful defeat is that of an episode of pride.

In the center we see a woman who is the personification of Poland, who is dressed in deep mourning, since it is taken as a snapshot of the precise moment in which a blacksmith is going to put chains on her wrists. And she makes a gesture of disdain towards that chain and also towards the oppressive Russian military who contemplate the scene. It seems to tell them, you can handcuff me but you won't take away my dignity. Something that is also contemplated by a Prussian officer, a collaborator of the Russians in that oppression.

A very harsh oppression, since you also see some Polish rebels who have been imprisoned and we know from history that they were exiled to harsh Siberia.

If we look closely, we see that behind Poland, there is another woman dressed in white, who rebels against an officer who tries to violate her. Well, that other woman would be a representation of Lithuania, since that territory on the shores of the B altic Sea had also confronted the Russian power and also suffered harsh repression for it.

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