Piotr Michałowski (1800–1855)
Seńko, c. 1846–1848
Gift of Józefa Michałowska, 1902

material: oil on canvas

dimensions: 62 x 46,5 cm

description: Rated among the masterpieces of Polish painting, this work was executed as a study for the figure of Don Quixote. Michałowski probably wanted to use it in a composition devoted to the title character of the famous novel by Cervantes, which he planned to paint but never did. The title, Seńko, was not given by the painter. It was introduced many years later, when the portrayed haggard peasant with an unbearably sad expression on his face was identified in the subject literature with a man from Bolestraszyce called Seńko, mentioned by the painter himself in a letter to his wife in 1845 with relation to the flood which had struck that region at the time: "Seńko, whose expressive thin face you must remember, when asking for cabbage and explaining that although once wealthy, today he lives in poverty, told me that after the flood they are all poor and that mountains have been levelled with valleys". The work’s artistry is expressed in elaborate colours, the bravura modelling of the armoury and the masterly psychological characterization of the peasant sitter. The artist focussed all his attention on the face, highlighted with light with adds a deep emotional feel to the realistic expression. Anna Zeńczak

exposition: The Gallery of 19th Century Polish Art in Sukiennice,
The Cloth Hall, 1, Main Market Square

key: Romanticism. Towards national art >>>

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