Jan K. Ostrowski Portraiture in Old Poland – Bibliography
This landmark book is the first English-language study to tackle its subject in depth. Written by one of Poland’s foremost art historians, it is an essential text for readers keen to look beyond the Western European art centres that have dominated art history since the inception of the discipline.
The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth – in spite of its flaws – was once the largest state in Europe, and it produced a distinctive culture that was often at odds with those of the absolutist monarchies of the day. The author casts his net wide, considering both forms of portraiture that were widespread across the continent yet also indigenous specialities such as coffin portraits and tomb banners. He likewise demonstrates how the 18th-century Partitions of Poland affected portraiture and national identity.
The book serves as an incisive exploration of the subject, yet also as a thought-provoking and at times witty resource on how to approach art in general, with the author spotlighting several pitfalls that can mislead the researcher. Finally, he shows how context and rational deduction can help solve iconographic puzzles. The multi-faceted approach means that the book is arguably unique in international literature on the subject.
Jan K. Ostrowski (b. 1947) studied at Cracow’s Jagiellonian University and the University of Nancy. Later, he was a visiting scholar in Florence, Munich, and at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton. He taught History of Art at the Jagiellonian University from 1973 to 2018, becoming a full professor in 1992. In 1989 he was appointed director of Wawel Royal Castle in Cracow and he held this post for three decades. Since 2018, he has been president of the Polish Academy of Arts and Sciences. He conceived and directed a programme of inventorying historic sites in the Lviv region (western Ukraine; 23 vols, 1993–2015). He has extensively researched and published on Late Baroque Sculpture in Lviv (Johann Georg Pinsel), Polish Romantic Painting (Piotr Michałowski), and Baroque Painting in Flanders and Italy (Anthony van Dyck, Sinibaldo Scorza).
The book was published in collaboration by: The Museum of King Jan III’s Palace at Wilanów, Warsaw; The Wawel Royal Castle – State Art Collection, Cracow; The IRSA Foundation for the Promotion of Culture, Cracow.
The English translation was made possible by a grant from the Lanckoroński Foundation.
Translated from the Polish by Nicholas Hodge and Sabina Potaczek-Jasionowicz.