An Icon Depicting Archangel Michael in the Church at Perespa: A Telling Example of an Artwork Created on the Religious Borderland of the Polish Republic in the Eighteenth Century
Ikona Archanioła Michała w kościele w Perespie - znamienny przykład dzieła sztuki wyznaniowego pogranicza Rzeczypospolitej XVIII wieku
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The present paper is a monographic study of an icon depicting Archangel Michael preserved in the parish church (formerly Orthodox) at Perespa, 30 km away from Zamość. Archival research and the analyses of the style, iconography and contents of the icon, respectively, have revealed the following: 1. According to the signature on the reverse of the icon, it was executed by Jakub Bobrowski, a painter of Zamość known hitherto only from archival sources, in the 1790s. Archival research additionally yielded new data, allowing for a more precise reading of the history of the church at Perespa, confirming that its pastor had maintained contacts with Zamość. 2. An attempt made to determine the artistic background of Bobrowski revealed that he had been a pupil of Gabriel Sławiński, a painter of frescoes and paintings in oil active near Zamość in the 1770s. Furthermore, the stylistic solutions employed in the icon of Perespa display the influence of the late Baroąue and Rococo painting of the Habsburg lands, especially of the Olomouc-Brno area (e.g. of such artists as Frantiśek Vavfinek Korompay and Martin Johann Schmidt, called Kremser Schmidt). 3. The iconographic analysis, apart from deciphering in fuli the inscriptions in Cyrillic, led to a conclusion that not only the choice of the twelve legendary episodes surrounding the central scenę depicting The Miracle of Archangel Michael at Chonae, but also their seąuence on the raised frame is of importance for the iconographic programme of the icon. The pairs of scenes in every tier share a common compositional scheme and similar content. The following double motifs have been indicated: 1) Punishment; 2) God's Will Connected with the Earth; 3) Deliverance; 4) The Saving Faith; 5) The Sign of Victory; 6) Liberation. Often, the typical schemes of Byzantine iconography were modified in order to preserve this "even relationship". 4. The interpretation of the icorfs contents has shown a particularly interesting pairing of religious and patriotic elements. In the light of archival sources it can be assumed that the iconographic programme was conceived in the "enlightened" circle of Prince Andrzej Zamoyski, with the mvolvement of Stanisław Staszic who made use of Adam Naruszewicz's historical research (most probably of his Historya Narodu Polskiego [The History of the Polish Nation], 1780-1786). The key to the reading of the programme is a scenę unprecedented in other Archangel Michael cycles, which was identified thanks to a Cyrillic inscription, depicting the Archangel passing to Boleslas the Brave (Chrobry) a sword of victory, according to a legend, the Szczerbiec (literally "notched sword"), a coronation insignia of Polish kings dented on the Golden Gate of Kiev, seizedby Boleslas in 1018. In the eighteenth century the so-called Cherven Towns conąuered by Boleslas in the eleventh century" were considered identical with much of the area of the Polish lands which after the partitions of Poland fell under Austrian rule. Therefore, the scenę seems to show the divine endowment of the Polish Repubłic with the lands that it had been illegally depnved of. The mechanism of this actualisation becomes elear in the light of Stanisław Staszic's treaty Przestrogi dla Polski [Warnings for Poland] (1790). In it the author in a similarly perverse way challenges Austrian diplomacy which based the right of Austrian monarchs to the annexed lands of the Polish Republic on a false Hungarian legacy. The presence of the patriotic thread in the legend of Archangel Michael makes it necessary to take into account the political situation of the Polish Republic also when considering the programme of the icon from a point of view of religious and church history. The Miracle at Chonae in the central part of the icon, featuring a faithful view of the actual church at Brest- Litovsk. being a compelling allusion to the Union of Brest of 1569. is a manifestation of hope for a miraculous delivery of the Greek Catholic church from the detrimental religious politics conducted by the partitioning powers: the Austrian Josephmism. on the one hand, and the Russian Orthodox monopoly on the other. Both of them in principle aimed at undermining the Pope's authority over the new community. Another scenę depicted in the Perespa icon. again unprecedented in Archangel Michael cycles, seems to respond to that threat. The scenę in ąuestion, The Announcement of the End ofPlague in Rome Made to Pope Gregory the Great, taken from the Golden Legend, mirrors the depiction of The Deliverance of Constantinople. Thus the pair seems to affirm that only the unification of the Byzantine and Latin traditions will embody the essence of the Uniate church.
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