Panorama of the Battle of Raclawice in Wroclaw

 

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Panorama of the Battle of Raclawice in Wroclaw, an impressive relic of 19th-century century mass culture, is one of only few examples of this genre preserved in Europe. The large painting (15x114m) 'transfers' the viewer into an altogether different time, a reality of its own, by artfully combining painterly devices (special kind of perspective) and technical effects (lighting, artificial terrain, dark and usually tortuous passage to the viewing platform).

Panorama of the Battle of Raclawice is the oldest and only extant example of panorama painting in Poland. The idea came from the painter Jan Styka in Lwow who invited the renown battle-painter Wojciech Kossak to participate in the project. The project was conceived as a patriotic manifestation commemorating the 100th anniversary of the victorious Battle of Raclawice, a famous episode of the Kosciuszko Insurrection, a heroic but in the end fallen attempt to defend Polish independence. The battle was fought on 4 April 1794 between the insurrectionist force of regulars and peasant volunteers (awesome scythe-bearers) under Kosciuszko himself and the Russian army commanded by General Tormasov. For the nation which had lost its independence, the memory of this glorious victory was particularly important. The National Exhibition, organized in Lwow in 1894, offered an excellent opportunity to realize Styka`s idea. Canvas, woven to order, was bought in Brussels, the specially-built rotunda's iron structure in Vienna. The rotunda, located in Stryjski Park in Lwow, was ready in July 1893. The huge panorama painting was executed within 9 months, between August 1893 and may 1894. The official opening was on 5 June 1894. Since the very beginning, Panorama of the Battle of Raclawice attracted enormous attention and brought crowds of tourists to Lwow. After World War II, the painting was brought to Wroclaw along with a part of the collection of the Ossolinski Institution. As under the Communist regime the subject was considered politically sensitive, the efforts to have the canvas restored and exhibited, undertaken by succesive Volunteer Committees, were successful only after August 1980. Reopened on 14 July 1985, the major attraction of the old Lwow has immediately become the main tourist attraction of Wroclaw. Here, contemporary viewers have an opportunity to participate in a unique illusionist spectacle. Among many guests visiting the panorama were Pope John Paul II, Beatrix and the Queen of Holland.



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