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The collections of the Jan Matejko House

  • Jan Matejko (1838-1893) was the creator of large-format paintings on historical themes and of highly valued portraits. Many of them can be admired in the Gallery of 19th- Century Polish Art in the Sukiennice. The Jan Matejko House, in turn, houses works which represent all phases of his artistic life: mainly small-sized historical compositions, sketches for large canvases – Copernicus or a Conversation with God (1871), John III Sobieski Hands Canon Denhoff a Letter to the Pope with the News of the Victory over the Turks at Vienna in the Year 1683 (1880) – and depictions of historical figures. Other important elements include portraits of his family and friends as well as his Self-Portrait from 1887.

    A valuable collection of drawings has been grouped into: sketches for historical compositions, studies for portraits, costumes, architecture and landscape, as well as handicrafts. A special place belongs to family caricatures and watercolour paintings on historical themes.

    The building also houses numerous cardboard designs for the polychromes in St Mary's Church in Krakow (1889-1891). This project led to a renewed interest in mural painting in the works of his students: Stanisław Wyspiański and Józef Mehhofer.

    Recognition for Jan Matejko's achievements is expressed through numerous Polish and foreign medals, diplomas, certificates of membership in artistic and academic associations, tributes attesting to great respect for his art, as well as a “scepter as a symbol of reigning in art” presented to the artist by the Krakow City Council in 1878.

    The collection also features precious documents, such as Matejko's letters to his family and friends, as well as authographs of personages corresponding with the artist (including Henryk Sienkiewicz, Władysław Czartoryski, Jacek Malczewski, Stanisław Tarnowski and Mikołaj Zyblikiewicz).
    In addition, the creators of the Museum gathered photographic documentation of the painter's art, a large part of which comes from the artist's collection. The most valuable items include depictions of Jan Matejko, his family and models.

    Matejko's penchant for collecting art is reflected in his collection of handicrafts, textiles, clothing and militaria, which often served him as props in his artistic work, as well as a collection of torture instruments acquired by Matejko during the renovation of the former city hall tower. Many of these objects have significant artistic and material value. Testimonies to the artist's strong bonds with Krakow include e.g. copies of the regalia belonging to King Casimir the Great made after the drawings of the artist, who was present during the official opening of the royal tomb.

    Jan Matekjo's book collection contains old prints dating back to the period from the 16th to the 18th century, and publications on history and art, frequently featuring dedications to the artist. It also includes volumes devoted to Jan Matejko, which were published after his death in 1893.
    Objects which do not constitute part of the permanent gallery are exhibited as part of temporary exhibitions.

    Text by Agnieszka Zagrajek, The Jan Matejko House, NMK

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