Jacek Malczewski (1854 – 1929)

Jacek Malczewski. THE POSTWOMAN, 1908

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Regarded as one of the greatest artists in the history of Polish art, Jacek Malczewski combined symbolism, mysticism and nationalism into a body of highly original works.

In this rather enigmatic work, an elegantly dressed man is standing in front of the viewer, oblivious of the peculiar encounter taking place behind him between a man in a black cape and a naked woman delivering him a package. At a closer look, the man appears to be the artist himself, whereas the woman bears resemblance with Malczewski’s muse and lover, Maria Balowa. The idyllic countryside background is reminiscent of the family residence in Wielgie, Poland, where the artist spent his childhood and which appears in numerous other works.

Over the years, Malczewski exploited the theme of death in an allegorical manner, portraying death as a young half-naked woman with a scythe in her hands. In his works, she appears to tired travellers, liberating them from the burden of life. What therefore at first may seem a humours scene, is in fact an intricate blend of symbolist imagery which showcases Malczewski’ world of unique imagination.

Lot 192. JACEK MALCZEWSKI, Polish, 1854-1929. THE POSTWOMAN, signed and dated J Malczweski 1908 lower right, oil on board, unframed: 50 by 61cm, 19½ by 24in. Exhibited Krakow, Towarzystwo Przyjaciół Sztuk Pięknych w Krakowie, 1909, no. 12 (as Portret). Estimate 30,000 – 50,000 GBP. Sotheby’s. 06/18/20

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