Jan Matejko (1838-1893) was the most exceptional historical painter in the annals of Polish art. His works have shaped the imagination and historical awareness of generations of Poles. Matejko was also an avid collector of costumes, clothing, fabrics, armor, and historical artifacts. The beginnings of his collection date from the 1850s. The artist was in the habit of purchasing valuable objects and antique items, not only for use in his home, but also as props for his paintings. Matejko's friends and acquaintances advised and assisted him in acquiring the collection. In 1860 the artist published a portfolio of lithographs titled UBIORY W POLSCE 1200 -1795 / COSTUMES IN POLAND 1200-1795, containing renderings of Polish costumes dating from a range of periods, beginning with the reign of Boleslaus the Bashful to the reign of Stanislaus Augustus Poniatowski. The images in the portfolio portray the costumes of students, clergymen, peasants, Jews, the nobility, monarchs and members of their courts, the bourgeoisie, the knighthood, magnates, as well as clothing worn by members of guilds and various brotherhoods. Throughout his entire creative career, the artist produced studies of costumes, draperies, and handcrafted items.

The most interesting liturgical garments collected by Matejko include a Renaissance dalmatic made of velvet brocade interlaced with gold thread and patterned in pomegranates, which appears in the canvasses HOLD PRUSKI / THE PRUSSIAN TRIBUTE (1882), PORTRET WILCZKA / PORTRAIT OF WILCZEK (1886) and in his monumental BITWA POD GRUNWALDEM / THE BATTLE OF GRUNWALD (1878). His collection also includes liturgical gloves embroidered with red or blue thread. Richly embroidered maniples and stoles, most of which date from the 17th and 18th centuries, supplement this set of ornamented accessories.

Jan Matejko's legacy also comprises numerous secular costumes. These range from dresses worn according to the reigning fashion in Europe, through costumes from Russia, Turkey, and the territories of today's Albania. Particularly noteworthy items include a vest decorated with an application of red wool cloth, a geometrically patterned jacket deriving from Macedonia, and a women's costume bearing brown wool cloth applications and fashioned like an elongated poncho, accompanied by a skirt, bodice, and embroidered belt. The collection also encompasses women's silk tunics and vests worn by the bourgeoisie. These bodices and ribbed skirts are decorated with rich, colorful embroidery. Costume researchers have demonstrated particular interest in a white, striped skirt of brocade with silver bows dating from the 18th century. The exhibition additionally includes a Middle Eastern women's costume consisting of a dress sewn of purple velvet embroidered with a decorative golden pattern.

One of the most unusual museum artifacts on view is a dress in the Empire style dating from 1815. Sewn of navy blue silk with stripes of the same color, the dress possesses small silver sections and two-part sleeves. The exhibition also includes a unique bridal dress fashioned of brick-colored embroidered silk patterned in golden leaves.

Alongside complete costumes, Matejko possessed numerous clothing accessories, including belts, lace, collars, sleeves, purses, gloves, fans, lace cuffs, and decorative haberdasheries, many of which have also been put on display.

Jan Matejko designed many costumes, not only for models who posed for the paintings that emerged from under his brush. Among other things, he fashioned clothing for the participants of his own wedding celebration and designed a number of costumes for balls, which he commissioned tailors in Krakow and Bochnia to produce. The exhibition STROJE I KOSTIUMY Z KOLEKCJI JANA MATEJKI / CLOTHING AND COSTUMES FROM THE COLLECTION OF JAN MATEJKO includes a number of these creations. Costumes designed by Matejko are not only valuable historical artifacts and often unique items, but also link into the artist's monumental paintings illustrating moments in Polish history. Just as the drawn studies of his costumes or the album COSTUMES IN POLAND 1200-1795 are a valuable source of information for researchers, so the costumes and clothing collected by the artist constitute valuable iconographic and comparative material for today's costume designers.

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