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From 23 July, visitors to the Princes Czartoryski Arsenal Museum have the opportunity to see 'Landscape with the Good Samaritan' by a renowned Dutch artist – Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn (1606–1669). The display heralds the exhibition, scheduled for next year, which will present selected collections of the Princes Czartoryski Museum, currently under reconstruction.
Dating back to 1638, 'Landscape with the Good Samaritan' is one of the few known and preserved oil landscapes painted by Rembrandt van Rijn himself, and at the same time one of the most valuable works of European art in Polish collections. The artist was inspired by Christ's parable featured in the Gospel of St Luke (10:30-36): A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him.
In the foreground on the right, where the road runs along the edge of the forest, we can see the Samaritan placing the half-naked injured man on a horse. They are being watched by a scared man and a woman, hugging each other, who have probably witnessed the attack. The clump of mighty oaks, visible in the foreground, under which we can see a hunter with a boy, shooting birds, divides the painting into two parts. On the left, there is a vast plain illuminated by the sun and encircled by distant hills with an oriental city and Dutch windmills on the walls (probably the Biblical Jericho). Where the road turns behind the waterfall, we can distinguish two small silhouettes of the priest and the Levite, as well as the rich man's carriage drawn by four white horses, who passed by the suffering man with indifference.
The main theme of the painting lies not so much in its landscape, but rather in love of one's neighbour and mercy. Rembrandt did not only depict a Bible scene against the background of this scenery, but he also tied it very closely with the landscape – the changes in the nature reflect what is happening in the human world. The wind drives away the dark storm clouds revealing a blue sky. The storm and darkness – the symbols of evil – pass, and the plain enjoys the first rays of the sun, which symbolizes good. The same occurs in the human world – the indifference and lack of interest in other people are conquered by the merciful act of the Good Samaritan. The painting features both biblical elements (such as the priest and the Levite, an oriental city, a palm tree on the edge of the forest) and elements of the seventeenth-century Dutch reality (windmills on the walls of the city, a carriage). In this way, the artist placed emphasis on the unchangeable nature of the biblical message about love of one's neighbour and mercy, whose importance was stressed in Christ's teachings and which constitute the essence of humanity until the present day.
'Landscape with the Good Samaritan' is a wonderful baroque painting, in which the drama of the situation was emphasized by strong contrasts of light and shadow, and which features at the same time rich and varied texture.
The painting was purchased in Paris by a French painter Jean-Pierre Norblin in 1774, then brought by him to Poland, where he visited the Czartoryski family. It became part of the family's collection in the Gothic House in Puławy around the year 1813.
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