Panorama Racławicka

Panorama of the Battle of Racławice

PANORAMA OF THE BATTLE OF RACŁAWICE in Wrocław, 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). Panoram of the Battle of Racławice is the oldest and only extant example of panorama painting in Poland.

The idea came from the painter Jan Styka (1858-1925) in Lwów (Lvov) who invited the renown battle-painter Wojciech Kossak (1857-1942) to participate in the project. They were assisted by Ludwik Boller, Tadeusz Popiel, Zygmunt Rozwadowski, Teodor Axentowicz, Włodzimierz Tetmajer, Wincenty Wodzinowski and Michał Sozański.

The project was conceived as a patriotic manifestation commemorating the 100th anniversary of the victorious Battle of Racławice, a famous episode of the Kościuszko 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 Kościuszko (1746-1817) 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 Lwów 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 (designed by Ludwik Ramułt) in Vienna. The rotunda, located in Stryjski Park in Lwów, 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 Racławice attracted enormous attention and brought crowds of tourists to Lwów.

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