Instytut Historii Sztuki <Posen> [Editor]
Artium Quaestiones — 4.1990

Page: 35
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leci”. „Ukazanie się obrazów Matejki było jakby rozdaręiem zasłony, oddzielającej
nas od świata dawnej Polski, było rzeczywistym odwałeniem grobowego kamienia
i wskrzeszeniem do życia tego, co było tylko prochem i popiołem” 28.

Opozycja wzroku i słuchu jako dwóch różnych sposobów kontaktu z historią
nie połega na przeciwstawieniu dwóch zmysłów, ałe dwóch różnych rodzajów pozna-
nia: zmysłowego i ponadzmysłowego, pośredniego i bezpośredniego, materialnego
i idealnego. Artysta komunikuje się z historią niejako mistycznie, bezpośrednio,
następnie transformuje ją w obraz — widzowi nie pozostaje nic innego jak odbyć
drogę odwrotną: od zobaczenia do współodczucia, od nainacalnego konkretu do
idealnego, duchowego przeżycia. Wnętrze grobu Kazimierza Wielkiego unaocznia
zatem istotę artystycznej działalności Matejki, stanowi całościowy do niej komentarz,
jest metaforą piocesu twórczego, dzieła i sposobu jego odbioru.



The paper is an attempt at a comprehensive analysis and interpretation of one work. Matejko’s
titular picture was painted in 1869 following a historical event. Hence, the text begins with Sta-
nisław Tarnowski’s extended account of the discovery of the tomb of Casimir the Great in the
Wawel Cathedral in June 1869. Tarnowski’s account provides a starting point also for our present
considerations. Tarnowski expressed his opinion about Matejko’s painting in the following words:
“It is exactly, most exactly, as it was there (...). There is only one thing that seems to us to be out
of place: the head of a youth looking inside through an opening. It may represent our times; it
may be a confrontation of the past and the present: one head — the king’s — is in dust, the .other
is living but poor?”

Having thus — with Tarnowski’s help — recognized the historical context of the origin of
the painting we may turn our attention to what and how it presents. We begin our study of the
picture with a description of a preiconographic level. The description — its order respecting the
task of recognizing and naming the presented objects — does not tell us anything about the com-
position. Nor is it able to relate the piece of reading to which the picture refers. It is only after
the analysis of a scheme of the painting’s composition, its perspective diagram, the relation
between light and space, etc., that one can reconstruct the process of perception proposed by
the painting. We begin our reading of the picture with the face of the youth which attracts through
being illuminated by a lighted torch. The crucial position of the face is defined not only by the
light but also by the horizon which in its height meets the face of the onlooking boy and brings the
middle distance to the foreground. When meeting the face we concentrate our attention on the
eyes and then reconstruct and follow the direction they look. In this way — next to us, in the
foreground — we come across the king’s skull. Only afterwards do we go back to the opening
and begin our slow exploration of the underdefined objects on the left side. The function of the
figure of the youth is not limited to a mere act of indicating. His composed, serious, and thought-

28 S. Witkiewicz, Matejko, Lwów 1912, s. 218 - 220.

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