The picture of Jan Matejko ‘Jan Sobieski at Vienna’ is going to have its replica. However, it is not going to be a painted but embroidered copy. The task was undertaken by a group of volunteers which is run by Mrs Janina Panek from Działoszyn. Careful readers of the ‘Sunday’ are familiar with her surname. Indeed, it is the same person who in the year 2010 initiated the embroidering the picture ‘Battle at Vienna’ about which the ‘Sunday’ has written a few times.

In love with Matejko

The embroidered picture of the ‘Battle of Vienna’ was exhibited, among the others, in Częstochowa, Łódź, Białystok, in the castle in Nowy Wiśnicz and in Berlin, in the exhibition “Poland – Germany 1000 years of neighborhood’. The monumental picture sized of 9.2m x 4.05m was widely popular everywhere, enthusiastic inscriptions were written in five souvenir books. The work of 32 people in the team of volunteers creating the embroidery lasted for 21 months, earlier preparatory works – half a year. The success which was won by the masterpiece, deposited now in the Museum of the Battle of Grunwald in Stębark, rewarded any efforts.

People looking at the ‘Battle of Vienna’ often asked if we were planning further works – reports Janina Panek. – I knew that it is a gigantic effort of many people. but the inscriptions like: ‘History of Poland – today I discovered it anew’ or ‘A beautiful picture, I am impressed, looking at it, I have shivers’ – added wings. In the beginning I thought that the next embroidered picture of Matejko would be ‘Prussian Homage’. But later we decided on ‘Jan Sobieski at Vienna’.

A great history and dandelions

The picture ‘Jan Sobieski at Vienna’ is in the Vatican Museum. Matejko gave it to the pope Leon XIII on the occasion of the 200th anniversary of the relief of Vienna, in 1883. The artist painted the scene just after the end of the battle. Sitting on a horse, the king is giving a letter to Fr. Jan Denhoff. It is a letter to the pope with a message about a victory. The picture also presents other historical figures: a prince Karol Lotaryński, prince Jakub Sobieski, a monk Marco D’Aviano, who also became the main film hero in the ‘Battle at Vienna’.

Mapping such great pictures in the scale 1:1would not be possible without elaborating the elements via computer. The starting point of the work of a computer technologist is a digital photograph of the masterpiece, taken in a very high resolution. In the case of the ‘Battle at Vienna’, embroiderers received the photograph from the National Museum in Warsaw. In the case of ‘Sobieski’ it was more difficult.

We were looking for the photograph via Internet, I and my son visited a publishing house in Poznań and Kraków, we corresponded with the Vatican Museum. Everything in vain – says Janina Panek. – Only in January this year, when I made a contact with prof. Józef Szaniawski, there appeared ray of hope.

After a few months of efforts Professor gave a CD with the photograph in a perfect resolution. – Together with other phone calls and conversations my admiration for professor Szaniawski was growing – says Janina Panek. – For example, once professor asked: ‘And have you also embroidered these dandelions and mullein at the bottom of the ‘Battle of Vienna’?. I was speechless because I do not remember these details but I checked them on the nearest occasion. Dandelions and mullein were in their place.

Needles in movement

The ‘Sobieski’ has sizes of 458 cm x 894 cm. An IT worker divided the picture into 50 elements, counting the colours of threads needed for the embroidery took two weeks. It turned out that 220 colours of threads had to be used and 9.5 million crosses had to be made.

– On 1 May this year I started embroidering the first element of the picture, and on 4 June there was the first meeting of the group from Częstochowa – says Janina Panek.

– Now we have a group from Działoszyn, Częstochowa and single people from Warsaw, Lębork, Bydgoszcz Człuchów, Cieszyn and other cities. In total 37 volunteers, although a few more people would be needed, in order to be on time with the work before 12 September 2013 – the 330th anniversary of the battle.

Thanks to the experience from the last work, collecting materials: threads, canvas and needles and other accessories went smoothly. Embroiderers had even their eyes checked. But there are still a lot of problems.

– The most important thing is diligence at work – emphasizes Grażyna Kochel. – Every day we must spend about 5 hours on the canvas. If something is neglected- it is very difficult to catch up with wasted time. In June I started embroidering my element and I wonder if I will be on time till next September.

There are also financial problems, because the group of embroiderers is working for free as previously, and many materials were given by donors, it is necessary to make a light-weight and solid frame on which the picture is going to be placed. The frame to the previous picture with the support construction, although made in an economical way, cost about 20 thousand zlotys.

The project has organizational and legal structures. It is a Foundation for Culture, Art and Tradition of Artistic Crafts of St. Queen Jadwiga with its headquarters in Częstochowa. Professor Józef Szaniawski was in its programming council, he also planned a book about the Vienna relief, which would accompany the expositions of the picture. After the tragic death of professor, there is lack of his contacts and advice.

Despite problems, embroiderers are full of optimism. After all, their purpose is making the Polish history popular, making the picture which would reach to big cities and small towns. Now the museums in Vilnius and Stębark as well as the castle in Nowy Wiśnicz are willing to exhibit it.

– I believe that we will win this battle – says Janina Panek.

PS: Volunteers interested in joining to work on embroidered replica of the painting "Jan Sobieski at Vienna" can refer suggestions at:
Foundation for Culture, Arts and Crafts Tradition of St. Queen Jadwiga, ul. Kręta 30, 42-200 Czestochowa, account number: 47 1020 1664 0000 3802 0422 4150.


"Niedziela" 49/2012

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Fr Jaroslaw Grabowski • E-mail: