Information from the curator, 14 January 2015
Presentation of the painting Landscape with the Good Samaritan
is – the first in Szczecin and in Western Pomerania – presentation of one of the paintings by the most remarkable Dutch painter. Created in 1638, with oil on oak bard 42,2 x 65,5 cm painting by Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn from the collection of the Princes Czartoryski Foundation in Cracow is one of only just six known landscape paintings by this author. The work is also one of three indisputable paintings by the 17th century master in Polish public collections. The remaining two, of 1641, are The Girl in a Picture Frame and The Scholar at the Desktop from the collection of the Lanckoroński family, were donated by prof. Karolina Lanckorońska as a tribute to Free and Independent Commonwealth and are placed in the collection of the Royal Castle in Warsaw.
Landscape with the Good Samaritan was bought at an auction in Paris in 1774 by Jan Piotr Norblin, who brought the artwork to Poland. In 1813 it was bought by Izabela Czartoryska and placed in the Gothic House in Puławy. After the collapse of the November Uprising the painting was exported to Paris. It returned from France in 1876 and then it was brought, as well, as the whole Czartoryski collection, to Cracow. In 1939 the painting, together with other treasures of culture, was robbed by Germans. After the war, on account of Karol Estreicher’s efforts, it was revendicated to Poland and returned to the National Museum in Cracow. Presently, as the property of the Princes Czartoryski Foundation, it remains under the care of the National Museum in Cracow.
The baroque painting presents a fantastic landscape – huge trees with twisted branches, placed in the foreground, divie the composition into two asimetric parts: in the right one may see a forest straw with two groups of characters, in the left there is, illuminated by golden rays of setting sun, a wide landscape with fields declining towards a river, distant hills and a town at their bottom. In the distance a storm is arousing anxiety. The whole is maintained in a slightly subdued coloring, in which brown, green and golden-yellow tones dominate. Strong contrast of parts plunged into darkness against strongly lit ones builds full of tension atmosphere of the composition. Chiaroscuro handling is an example of the artist’s highest artistry and a show of his workshop virtuosity. Sketchy, full of freedom painting technique was completed by careful, precise work on details in presenting the characters of the Biblical parabole and
a bush of thistle visible in the foreground.
The Rembrandt’s work, illustrating the Parable of the Good Samarytan from the Gospel by St. Luke (10: 30–37), is a masterly combination of human’s drama and atmosphere of dread and mysteriousness of nature, evoked by the storm. The contrast of darkness, evil and indifference against light, good and mercy – the point of the biblical parable in the painting by the Dutch master gains a dimension of cosmological, universal moral vision. In the figure of the Samaritan – a personification of virtue of Christian mercy and charity – placed amidst storm, symbolically understood as, full of dramatical tensions, changeability of human’s fate, there can be found a metaphor of conditio humana, human’s life facing the hazard of death, the rescue from which can be Caritas, the virtue of mercy – Christian love towards fellow and God, being the essence of real devotion and Protestant criteria of salvation.