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2008 | 33 | 45-51

Article title

'ON AMERICAN POLONICA OF REMBRANDT OR FAIRY TALE ABOUT PEARL AND BOOT (O amerykanskich polonikach Rembrandta, czyli bajka o perle i bucie)

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Numerous new works on Rembrandt, particularly some volumes of the Rembrandt Research Project and opinions of the most outstanding scholar in this field, Ernst van de Wetering, encourage to write some words about Rembrandt's American Polonica: 'The nobleman in Polish dress' in the National Gallery in Washington DC and 'The Polish Rider' in The Frick Collection, New York. The first picture, with the original signature of the Master and the date 1637, in the 18th century belonged to the rich collection of J. E. Gotzkovsky in Berlin. The entire collection in 1764 was bought by Catherine II of Russia, marked by a greedy passion for art. In the Imperial Hermitage in St. Petersburg the Russians saw the portrait an oriental ruler, but Poles, visiting Russian capital, tried to find in it an image of a Polish king, possibly of Stefan Batory or Jan Sobieski. In 1937 the portrait, with several other paintings acquired by Andrew Mellon, found its way to the National Gallery in Washington. In 1963 a Czech scholar, analyzing the costume of the person and some Dutch archival sources tried to prove that it might be a portrait of Polish diplomat of Rembrandt's times, Andrzej Rej (1584-1641) - this statement, however, seems to bee totally wrong. The face of the model is not typical Polish, but Dutch, with a form of moustache different to the Polish style. A big pearl in the ear, sometimes used in the male fashion in the West, never appeared in Poland. Also the dress does not belong to the Polish ones used in the first half of the 17th century. The face of the man with an artificial grim expression is most probably a kind of tronies, 'an exaggerated facial expression or a stock character in costume', eagerly practised by Rembrandt (as suggested by Ernst van de Wetering). The model is surely Adriaen, Rembrandt's brother. To make him a cruel oriental ruler the artist gave him a big Russian cap decorated with a gilt chain, a pear - shaped pearl to the ear, and a commander baton in the hand. He clad him in the fur covered with purple velvet, ornamented with a peculiar object - an oriental buntchuk - a horsetail standard, in gilt knop on chain, used for splendid horse trapping. All these were requisites of the artist, probably found in the Amsterdam bazaar, helping paint costumed portraits, especially of members of his family. The Polish Rider ('Lisowczyk' in Polish) is today generally explained as an original portrait of a Polish gentleman in the dress and with arms of light horse officer, probably of Marcjan Oginski. All elements of his costume and armament, as well horse's saddle and trapping (also with a buntchuk) - not from bazaar, but after original model, are reproduced by Rembrandt with a precision and faithfulness possible to achieve only by a genius. Nevertheless, recently de Wetering tried to discover again the hidden secrets of the painting. He is convinced that several different hands were involved in the picture. Surely, we know that the lower part of canvas (about ten centimetres wide) is added with a clumsy painted horse's lower parts of legs. Also the cap of the Rider changed its form in the front by unfortunate hand of a restorer. All other elements of attire and equipment are of Rembrandt's hand, and so is the boot, of Polish yellow leather and shape, and not a product of an inexperienced assistant. .






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  • Zdzislaw Zygulski, ul. Dunin Wasowicza 12 m.5, 30-112 Krak√≥w, Poland


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Publication order reference


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