Ornaments on the Mantlepiece. Display of the Painting by Józef Mehoffer

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  • Tuesday, February 6, 2024 - Sunday, April 7, 2024

The works from the easel of Józef Mehoffer include still lifes alongside his quite numerous landscapes, genre and allegorical scenes. Although they are only a complementary strand in the rich iconosphere of the artist’s paintings and more modest in number, they are a nevertheless significant one. They are an expression of an important feature of his creative personality, or of his character in general – a tendency to devote his attention to small everyday motifs, to notice their inconspicuous beauty and decorative qualities, sometimes hidden mystical meanings, and their importance arising from their connection with specific people and situations. Mehoffer’s still lifes are thus images of slices of reality reproduced with feeling, and each is characterised by a specific, intense emotional shade.

Ornaments on the Mantlepiece, painted in Paris in 1895, is the best known of these works. The inspiration for Mehoffer was his acquaintance with Jadwiga and Wanda Janakowska; he met the artistically talented sisters in 1894. He dedicated three compositions to the younger sister, Wanda, in the second half of the 1890s – The Singer (1896), recently shown at the Józef Mehoffer House in a separate exhibition, The Muse (1897), and expressive landscape The Ravine (1897) with a depiction of her silhouette as staffage. Both Janakowska sisters, in turn, appear in the painting The Conversation (1896).

Ornaments on the Mantlepiece, on the other hand, is associated with the figure of Jadwiga. The painting depicts a small, beautiful motif from her room in Paris, which had been rendered somewhat earlier in oil by Karol Maszkowski.

Mehoffer’s penchant for private scenes and his intimate sensitivity is not apparent in any of his works as clearly as it is in Ornaments. The extraordinary decorativeness of this composition is determined by the sublime colouring and the thoughtful, ornamental arrangement of the colour spots that build it, as if tangled together. The image of the ornaments lying on the mantlepiece and the image of their reflection in the mirror in this symbolist still life are closely intertwined and inseparable, which puzzles and intrigues the viewer.



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