Prof. Iwo Cyprian Pogonowski: “Lisowczyk” the “Polish Rider” painted by Rembrandt

Rembrandt-Harmensz-van-Rijn-zh.wikipedia.org_039By the end of the Golden Age of Poland or about 1600 AD the family of Hendrick van Uylenburgh (c. 1587 – 1661) emigrated to Kraków, then capital of the Polish Noble’s Republic composed of the union of Poland and Lithuania. It was by far the largest territory in Europe in Western Christianity.

Hendrick was trained as a painter and also worked as an art buyer for the Polish king, who served as the chief executive of the Polish Nobles’ Republic. Around 1612, Hendrick moved to Gdańsk and in 1625 returned to the Netherlands, settling in the capital of Amsterdam. Eventually, he became an influential Dutch Golden Age art dealer. He helped to launch the careers of Rembrandt, Govert Flinck, Ferdinand Bol, and other famous painters.

Van Uylenburgh took over the business of Cornelis van der Voort and became an art dealer, who employed painters in his own studio. In 1631 Rembrandt moved into van Uylenburgh’s house, adjacent to Rembrandt’s later home, which now the serves as Rembrandt House Museum. He worked in van Uylenburgh’s studio.

Rembrandt became chief painter of the studio and in 1634 married van Uylenburgh’s niece Saskia van Uylenburgh sister of Antje married to philosophy professor Jan Ogończyk Makowski (Johannes Maccovius), Polish nobleman who was born in Łobżenica, Poland in 1588 and died in June 24, 1644 in Franeker University in the Netherlands.

Jan Makowski was a Polish Reformed theologian who after visiting various universities (in 1607 in Danzig, in 1610 in Marburg, 1611 in Heidelberg) and as the tutor of young Polish nobles, including the Ogiński’s, has been holding disputations with Polish Jesuits and Socinians-Anti-Trinitarians.

Makowski-Maccovius entered into the University of Franeker in 1613. There he became “privat-docent” in 1614 and professor of theology in 1615. In later years, the fame of Maccovius attracted many students from Poland to Franeker University.

It is believed that Marcjan Aleksander Ogiński is the subject of “Lisowczyk” or “The Polish Rider” painted (c. 1655), by Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn. Marcjan Aleksander Ogiński (1632 – 5 January 1690 in Alovė, now Alytus district of Lithuania) was a Polish nobleman, a member of a family of polonized boyars, after the Union of Horodło of 1413. He was a military commander and a statesman of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. It should be noticed that the Grand Duchy of Lithuania was basically a Slavic state, using the language of Belrus (Białoruski) as its official language rather than the currently recognized official language of Lithuania.

He advanced to the rank of colonel or in Polish pulkownik, in 1657, served as Wojewoda of Troki (since 1670) and Grand Chancellor of Lithuania (since 1684). He was the signatory of the Eternal Peace Treaty of 1686 with the Tsardom of Russia, as a representative of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania in union with Poland.

Marcjan Aleksander Ogiński is believed to be the subject of a much debated work, Rembrandt’s “Lisowczyk” or “The Polish Rider.” The image was painted at the time when Ogiński was studying in the Netherlands. It has been suggested that Ogiński had the portrait painted on the eve of his return to his military unit during the devastating Swedish invasions of Poland known as “the Deluge.”

Recently Thomas M. Prymak published an article “Rembrandt’s painting “Polish Rider” in it’s East European Context,” in “The Polsh Review vol. LVI. 2011 no.3,” in which the author quotes the evaluation of the painting, now known in Poland as “Lisowczyk,” by professor Zdzisław Żygulski, Jr. of Kraków entitled: “Lisowczyk – A Study of Costiume and Weapons,” (Bulletin de Musee National de Varsovie) [Bulletin of the National Museum in Warsaw], VI, 2/3 (1965), 43-67.

Another member of the Ogiński family, Michał Kleofas, was born in Guzów, Żyrardów County near Warsaw. His father Andrius was Lithuanian nobleman and governor of Troki, in Lithuania. Taught at home, young Ogiński excelled especially at music and foreign languages.

Michał Kleofas Ogiński served as an adviser to King Stanisław August Poniatowski and supported him during the Great Sejm of 1788–1792. After 1790, he was dispatched to Hague as a diplomatic representative of Poland in the Netherlands and was Polish agent in Constantinople and Paris. In 1793, he was nominated to the office of the Treasurer in Lithuania. During Kościuszko Uprising in 1794, Ogiński commanded his own unit.

After the insurrection was suppressed, he emigrated to France, where he sought Napoleon’s support for the Polish cause. He saw a creation of the Duchy of Warsaw by the Emperor as a stepping stone to eventual full independence of Poland, and dedicated his only opera, Zelis et Valcour, to Napoleon. In 1810, Ogiński withdrew from political activity in exile and disappointed with Napoleon returned to Wilno. Andrzej Jerzy Czartoryski introduced him to Tsar Alexander I, who made Ogiński a Russian Senator. Ogiński tried in vain to convince the Tsar to rebuild the Polish State. He moved abroad in 1815 and died in 1833 in Florence.

As a composer he is best known for his Polonaise’A Farewell to the Homeland’ (‘Pożegnanie Ojczyzny’) written on the occasion of his emigration to Western Europe after the failure of the Kosciuszko Insurrection in 1794. Polonaise “A Farewell to the Homeland” (‘Pożegnanie Ojczyzny’) and the painting of “Lisowczyk” are cherished by American Polonia.

Prof. Iwo Cyprian Pogonowski

Zrodlo: Strona autorska – Iwo Cyprian Pogonowski – 2011.11.23 

Picture: Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn, Lisowczyk, ca. 1655. Oil on canvas, 114,9 x 135 cm. The Frick Collection, New York. The painting is also known as The Polish Rider. Source:

Waldemar Glodek

Autor: Waldemar Glodek