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Further Battles for the "Lisowczyk" (Polish Rider) by Rembrandt

Zdzisław Żygulski, Jr.
Artibus et Historiae
Vol. 21, No. 41 (2000), pp. 197-205
Published by: IRSA s.c.
DOI: 10.2307/1483642
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1483642
Page Count: 9
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Further Battles for the "Lisowczyk" (Polish Rider) by Rembrandt
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Abstract

Few examples of modern painting provoke as many passionate discussions and disputes as Rembrandt's "Lisowczyk", which is known under the title "The Polish Rider" and with such a label exhibited in the Frick Gallery in New York. In 1944 Julius S. Held, outstanding American art scholar published his treatise in "Art Bulletin" in which he admitted Rembrandt's authorship of the painting but refused to perceive the rider as Polish. He saw the rider as an allegorical figure of the Christian knight ("Miles Christianus"). Zdzisław Żygulski, Jr., Cracow art historian contested this opinion. He carried out a detailed analysis of the costume, arms and riding style of the youth and came to the conclusion that Rembrandt could not base his work on any iconographic material, e.g. della Bella's etching, but around the year 1655 must have had a real Polish rider for a model. In the subsequent years there was published a number of different articles by Dutch, English, American, German and Polish scholars. They recognized the Polish character of the rider but reflected on his identity, pondering whether he was a portrait of a real or imaginary Pole or an allegorical figure. The critical moment came in 1984 when Joshua Bruyn, member of the Rembrandt Research Project, which was formed to redefine Rembrandt's oeuvre, called in question Rembrandt's authorship of the painting, suggesting that it should be ascribed to Willem Drost. His opinion was shocking and it sparked off a serious objection, most strongly expressed in Anthony Bailey's book "Responses to Rembrandt. Who painted the Polish Rider?" (New York, 1993). The painting was examined again. This time the RRP team was headed by Ernst van de Wetering, the Project's chairman. As a result of this research Rembrandt's authorship was confirmed and a suggestion was made that the painting bore traces of later additions painted by someone else's hand. The former identification of the rider as a Pole was recognized by the team. And so it was by Julius S. Held in the interview that Bailey had with him. The painting has always been a source of inspiration for Polish artists, eg. Juliusz Kossak in the 19th c. and Jan Lebenstein in the 20th c.

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