Mirys. Portraits

Temporary exhibitions

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  • Friday, August 26, 2022 - Sunday, January 8, 2023

The now largely forgotten Augustyn Mirys (1700-1790) was one of the most fascinating painters active in the late Baroque period in Poland. Scottish by descent but born in France and undertaking professional activity in Italy, he ultimately settled in Poland, where he spent the remainder of his life creating numerous works for the aristocratic elite of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. The exhibition being presented at the Bishop Erazm Ciołek Palace brings together his finest portraits from museums in Poland, Lithuania, and Ukraine; it was in portraits that the talent of Mirys is most fully revealed.

Mirys was born in Paris to a family of Scottish émigrés. His father had been forced to leave Scotland after supporting the exiled Catholic king, James II of England. After completing studies in Paris, Mirys set out for Rome, where his creative work was met with enthusiasm and where he was granted the Order of the Golden Spur by the Pope. While Mirys was in the Eternal City, prince Jan Kajetan Jabłonowski persuaded him to come to Poland. Here he worked for many aristocratic clans from all around the Commonwealth, including the Sapieha, Cetner, Krasicki, and Bieliński families. Finally, most likely in the 1760s, he entered into the service of the hetman Jan Klemens Branicki and moved from Warsaw to Białystok, where he remained until the end of his life.

The further fate of Mirys is not well known, with many details of his life uncertain or based simply on assumptions. Likewise, his artistic output has not been fully catalogued. Many works have been lost, while others have been incorrectly attributed to him, and still others await discovery. This exhibit presents only his portraits, and only those which can be with a large degree of certainty attributed to him. It was in portraiture, among the many types of painting he was involved in, where his talent shines through to us most fully. The compositions of these images are mainly quite unvarying, based on then popular forms, yet the vibrant texture of the paint, applied with a light hand as in a sketch, the sophisticated colour palette, and most of all the unusually perceptive portrayal of the models make these canvasses exceptional works of art. Among them are a large group of self-portraits in which Mirys looks out at us in half-profile with a keen, striking gaze.



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