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Prussian Oath

Jan Matejko, 1882
Wawel Royal Castle, Krakow


Danuta Batorska describes the early exhibition history of Matejko’s Prussian Oath :

“In April 1882 Prussian Homage was exhibited inside the Sukiennice [Cloth Hall], and was praised by both the public and the critics. In June the canvas was shown in Warsaw, in July in Moscow and Saint Petersburg, and in November at the Exhibition of Fine Arts in Rome. In October the painting was exhibited in Vienna, where, despite imperial patronage, Matejko was castigated in the press for daring to show a picture derogatory to Germans. That same month Matejko donated it to the Polish nation, to be housed in the Wawel Castle after its restoration. At the 1884 Paris Salon it received belittling reviews. By then it was regarded as somewhat retardataire, as the more modern style of Impressionism was gaining favor. However, at the June 1884 exhibition of the Royal Academy in Berlin, the jury unanimously voted to recommend to the Kaiser the award of the great gold medal to Matejko. This was unprecedented, for as a rule the great gold medal was awarded to an artist only after he had received the small gold medal, which Matejko had yet to acquire. The Kaiser, however, on the advice of Bismarck,* who recognized the painting as anti-German propaganda, declined to follow the jury’s recommendation. The following year, 1885, the picture was shown in Wroclaw, Prague, and Budapest.”

*Otto von Bismarck (1815-98) was a German politician and later Chancellor of Germany.

Danuta Batorska, “The Political Censorship of Jan Matejko,” Art Journal, vol. 51, no. 1 (Spring 1992): 60-1.

About the Artist

Born: Krakow, 24 June 1838
Died: Krakow, 1 November 1893
Nationality: Polish