One of our pocket squares from 'artworks collection', which is our cooperation with National Muzeum in Warsaw.
Jan Matejko's Battle of Grunwald is indisputably one of the most famous paintings in Poland's national collection. The painting has followed a tumultuous track through more than a century of cultural and political change, inspiring artists, authors, filmmakers, historians and even politicians.
Jan Matejko's monumental work depicts an amalgam of the most dramatic turning points in the struggle of the Polish and Lithuanian armies against the Teutonic Knights on July 15, 1410. The battle of Grunwald, which took place in the fields of Grunwald, Łodwigow and Stębark, was one of the greatest battles of mediaeval Europe. As for the painting's ideological facets, it has remained pretty fixed in its anti-Germanic message from its first appearance in 1878 up to the period of the Polish People's Republic. It should be emphasized that Grunwald carried a special significance for Poles in the time when the nation did not exist as an independent state on the map of Europe, and all uprisings were bloodily suppressed. In order to survive, national identity had to refer to the past. In these circumstances, painting and literature made "to cheer people's hearts" played a very special role, feeding the conscience and patriotic sentiment.
The composition of the painting is extremely dynamic, almost Baroque. The circle in which the main heroes of the painting's action are presented creates an unusual effect. You can see swarms of people captured in violent action, stressed by the dynamic movement of their robes. At the same time, the composition remains harmonious and balanced as a whole. The figures of the commanders, Duke Witold on the right and Ulrich von Jungingen on the left are placed in the painting's centre. Thanks to the contrasting colours of their red and white robes, as well as the illuminated effect on that part of the painting, the viewer's gaze stops there first. Still, after a moment of close reading you can notice equally important historical figures in the top right corner in the background, that is Władysław Jagiełło and Zbigniew Oleśnicki, who will later save the king's life. It is an element of composition that Matejko often made use of. On the one hand, highlights a clear message - at the centre of the painting - and on the other it injects additional elements into the story, key to its proper interpretation and understanding. The viewer discovers new parts of the account without losing track of the main theme.