Warsaw – National Museum in Warsaw (Battle of Grunwald by Jan Matejko)

This is no insignificant painting either in measurement, 10 metres by 4 metres, or in terms of its history and heritage. It was painted by Jan Matejko and is of the battle which took place in 1410 which was seen as an important victory for the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. The artist started work on the painting in 1872 and it wasn’t completed until 1878, with its first owner being the Warsaw banker, Dawid Rosenblum.

The painting is a significant one in Polish history and so when the Germans took over the city of Warsaw during the Second World War, this was an artwork which they wanted to seize and destroy. Joseph Goebbels offered a reward of 10,000,000 Marks for anyone who could locate it, with some Polish citizens dying rather than admit to where it was hidden. It was actually located in a stable near Lublin (although some reports say it was hidden within a library), successfully making it through the war unharmed, although in need of restoration. The Germans did know that the painting was somewhere near Lublin, but they never received anything more precise than that to help them locate it. After the post-war restoration work had been completed, the artwork was placed in the National Museum in Warsaw, where it has been since, other than periods of time when it has been loaned out to other institutions.

The painting itself is complex and quite cluttered, it’s beyond my historical knowledge to really understand what’s going on. However, it’s a monumental artwork and someone could perhaps look at it for hours before saying that they could really comprehend it. The history of how it survived is though one of the most intriguing elements about this artwork and its placement on an end wall within the gallery gives almost a sense of theatre to the painting.