Title

Uprooting Origins: Polish-Lithuanian Art and the Challenge of Pluralism

Document Type

Contribution to Books

Publication Date

2018

Abstract

What does it mean that the art of the "other" Europe was developed with reference to the art of the West, and how did that development go on?
Piotr Piotrowski, "On the Spatial Turn" (2009, 7)

A bearded man looks at us from a life-size portrait at the National Arts Museum in Minsk. The inscription on the right identifies the sitter as Krzysztof Wiesiolowski, describing him in Polish as "Lord-Grand-Marshal of Lithuania, governor (starosta) of Tykocin, Suraż, Kleszczele, Mielnik and Krzyczew, steward (ekonom) of Grodno, Anno 1636." The Ogończyk coat of arms above the inscription additionally marks Wiesiolowski as a Polish-Lithuanian nobleman, while the marshal's baton, which he holds in his right hand, is the attribute of the man's position as Lord-Grand-Marshal of Lithuania—Wiesiolowski acquired this high office of state in 1635 (Kamieniecka 1972, 93). But, despite these cues to the sitter's identity and status, the portrait moves between different registers of cultural belonging. On the one hand, the sitter's full-length, confident pose, together with an all'antica architectural background, recalls portraits commissioned in western Europe in this period. Yet, simultaneously, Wiesiolowski wears clothing that is far removed from western European fashions of the day, instead appearing in thrall with contemporaneous Ottoman custom. What to make of this mix of cultural forms on view in the same painting?

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