I am no art historian neither am I an art junkie, but I will not say no to an opportunity to view one of the most renowned paintings in the world, especially when the said painting is located so close to where I live! I am talking of none other than Leonardo Da Vinci’s Lady with an Ermine.
I was fortunate enough to view this beautiful masterpiece earlier this week, which by the way, dates back to around 1490 A.D, that makes it roughly 527 years old! The painting is currently located in The National Museum in Krakow, popularly abbreviated as MNK (established in 1879). Prior to this, it was at the Royal Wawel Castle, Krakow and before that a part of the collection under Czartoryski Museum also in Krakow.
A bit of History:
The painting is an oil on wooden panel. It was purchased around the 1800’s in Italy, by Adam Jerzy, the son of Princess Izabela Czartoryska, and donated to the Museum in Pulawy, where it was exhibited in the ‘Gothic House’ from 1809-1830. The portrait embodies the Renaissance idea of an image as an illusion of natural vitality. The painting represents a three-dimensional image of a human figure due to the artist’s knowledge of anatomy and his lighting skills.
In art history, High Renaissance is the time denoted by the period of the visual arts in the Italian Renaissance. The High Renaissance period is traditionally taken to begin in the 1490’s and believed to have ended in 1527. This period saw the rise of three prominent art visionaries of the time – Leonardo da Vinci (1452–1519), Michelangelo (1475–1564), and Raphael (1483–1520). The works of art to have come out of this period are The Monalisa -Louvre Museum, Michaelangelo’s Genesis –Sistine Chapel, Lady with an Ermine -National Museum Krakow, The Last Supper –Santa Maria della grazie, Pieta and many more.
Did you know!
The portrait is that of a woman identified as Cecilia Gallerani who was the mistress of the Duke of Milan.
It is believed that the original background of the painting was painted over in black in the 19th Century as Princess Izabela Czartoryska did not like the original background!
Her dress below the ermine was retouched and a transparent veil being worn by the woman was repainted to match the colour of her hair. The result of this last retouching has been to give the appearance that her hair reaches down and underneath her chin.
Yet another change was the addition of dark shadows between the fingers of her right hand, a close look at the bottom two fingers shows they are quite inferior to the others after an unknown restorer repainted them. An x-ray of this painting revealed the presence of a door in the original background.
For what it’s worth!
The portrait became the property of the Republic of Poland in 2016 when the Polish Government bought the painting for 100 million euros. There was no market price, but it was agreed with Prince Adam Czartoryski (former owner), as he wanted to secure an access for Poles to the painting after his death. Due to this reason, his foundation agreed to sell it to the Polish Government.
Just coincidentally I also happened to watch the Polish movie – Vinci (2004) a comedy directed by Juliusz Machulski and filmed in the beautiful city of Krakow, which revolves around this painting. The movie has a good plot about a thief who comes out of prison and tries to steal the infamous painting when it returns from its tour in Japan. I won’t say much about this movie as with the painting I urge you to watch it as well as it is quite entertaining.
A visit to the Museum:
I know that when people come to visit Krakow or even for those who have lived here a long time, we might tend to skip visiting the museums as there are so many in Krakow and many other things to do and see. I enjoy going to this Museum, as I have been there many times on different occasions and for me it’s a nice calming experience. As many people these days are into social media, there is a separate section where one can take a photo as a souvenir and share it with friends and family over the social landscape. If you do happen to take such a picture, don’t forget to use the hashtag #TheKrakowistxErmine (so we know you were here)
When to visit:
The painting is on exhibition from 19.05.2017 until 17.05.2020, at MNK in Krakow.
Museum Narodowy w Krakowie
Al. 3 Maja 1, 30-062 Kraków (+48 12 433 54 00)
TUES – SAT: 10 A.M. – 6 P.M.
THUR: 10 A.M. – 8 P.M.
SUNDAY: 10 A.M – 4 P.M.