Jack Malczewski (1854-1929) was raised in a noble but impoverished family, with a love for art and Romantic literature, particularly the poetry of Julius Słowacki. In 1863, the January Uprising and subsequent repression made a deep impression on the young artist. His first teacher was Adolf Dygasiński. From 1867 to 1871, he spent his youth in the estate of his aunt and uncle, the Karczewskis, in Wielgie. In 1873, he began his studies at the School of Fine Arts in Krakow under the tutelage of Jan Matejko. He was also a student of Władysław Łuszczkiewicz and studied at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris. He traveled to Italy, Vienna, Munich, Greece and Asia Minor. From 1896 to 1900 and 1910 to 1914 he was a professor at the Academy of Fine Arts in Krakow and from 1912 to 1914, its rector. His early works were marked by a romantic idealism, followed by a more naturalistic style. After the death of his father in 1884, the motif of Thanatos, the god of death, frequently appeared in his works. After 1890, his art became increasingly symbolic. His works manifesting this new style included “Introduction” (1890), “Melancholy” (1890-1894), and “Vicious Circle” (1895-1897). He explored existential, historical and artistic themes, often combining classical and biblical motifs with Polish folklore and landscapes. His distinctive style was characterized by form, color, monumentality and expressiveness. Rogaliński’s painting is one of the three compositions by Malczewski in which a peasant Madonna is seen against the backdrop of a Polish countryside, surrounded by adoring figures*. The form of a triptych, derived from Christian iconography, is also seen in Malczewski’s “Madonna and Children” (1897) at the National Museum in Krakow and in “Adoration of the Madonna” (1910) at the National Museum in Warsaw. In the latter painting, as in the Rogaliński one, the barefoot children who usually paid homage to the enthroned Madonna have been replaced with creatures of Malczewski’s imagination: mythical fauns, chimeras, pegasi and Siberian exiles.

Description of the painting:
The painting “Warszawska Adoracja” is part of a triptych titled “Go Over the Stream”, which is inspired by the poem “Beniowski” by Juliusz Słowacki. The poem is set during the Bar Confederation and the struggle against the Russians and the rebelling Rus peasants, which is why the Baroque-style plinth on which the barefoot Madonna in Ukrainian costume rests, as well as the crescent moon motif associated with Baroque and Rococo images of the Immaculate (Immaculate) Mary, are understood. The vision of the endless fields, reminiscent of the Ukrainian provinces of the Polish Republic, found in the background of this canvas is also understandable. The poem was a reckoning of the poet with the vision of the old Polishness presented in Mickiewicz’s “Pan Tadeusz” and an attempt to establish himself as the new spiritual leader of the nation. His embodiment on the Malczewski canvas appears to be a young wanderer in a sheepskin coat, bowing before the Madonna. Here he looks for poetic inspiration and immortality, reflected in the muse with Pegasus heading towards him. However, against the spiritual, Apollonian aspect, Malczewski opposed the Dionysian world of primary instincts, desires and the beauty of evil, symbolized by the figures of satyrs and chimeras, which are opposed to Christian virtues, dominating the right part of the painting.

We find conflicting elements in Rogalinski’s “Madonna”. However, what is important is that the role of music is taken by the compositionally combined with Pegasus green-winged Chimera, and the role of an aged wanderer in a Siberian fur coat is taken by Malczewski himself – the artist. Concerned, supporting his head with his left hand, he seems to be pointing with his right towards the oval-shaped stone face of the pedestal below, adorned with a two-armed cross in a circle, on which the blue throne of Mary – Queen of Poland – rests. For the wide, golden-background field landscape under the blue-milky sky, as well as the folk costume of the barefoot Madonna with a Slavic beauty, leave no doubt about this.

The stone with the cross in a circle reminds of the grave-cult megaliths known for millennia to followers of pre-Christian religions. The circle with two crossed axes is one of the oldest solar symbols of Indo-Europeans, but also of Eastern Slavs, which expresses a special relationship between heaven and earth. But also a symbol of the central point, balancing the active and passive characteristics in the character of a perfect man. This range of meanings refers us to the often recalled by the artist “Grave of Agamemnon” by Słowacki, subjecting to critical reflection the actions of the Polish nobility and its role in the loss of independence. On the other hand, it refers to the doubts associated with the artistic calling and awareness of one’s own imperfections.

As a supporter of Neo-Romanticism and Neo-Mesianism, Malczewski often combined patriotic thought “with an ongoing reflection on the moral reconstruction of man. From the current situation he rose to consider life in general, the human fate, the struggle to find his place in the world.” As in many of his paintings, Malczewski portrays “… how heavy a yoke for the artist but also his freedom is to accept social obligations when they are understood as an ethical demand. Malczewski formulated it directly: [… ]”Believe me, if I were not a Pole, I would not be an artist. On the other hand, I never narrowed my Polishness of my art to certain narrow, pre-defined frames. Wyspiański, for example, limited the concept of Polishness to one place. He often took me to Wawel and said: . Meanwhile, I always explained to him that Poland is these fields, furrows, roadside willows, the atmosphere of this village at sunset, this moment like now – all this is more Polish than Wawel, it is this that the Polish artist should strive to express in the first place. ”**.

“Thus, this national thought was expressed, among other things, by the constant accompaniment of the image of the land dear to the heart and the repeated drawing of material from the archetypal human beliefs preserved in Slavic and Polish folklore. This, in turn, appeared in his work on equal terms with biblical parables and Greek mythology.”