Lithuanian Art of the 14th – 19th c.

M. K. Čiurlionis National Museum of Art
M. K. Čiurlionis National Museum of Art

A variety of examples of ancient visual and decorative arts – medieval treasures, legends, rarities, death, church, and the world of the rich – bring into the open the development and tendencies of art and culture in Lithuania within 600 years. Only fragmentary bits of history had survived, nevertheless, they allow without strict chronology the reconstruction of at least part of that distant period.

Room 1. Primeval objects, unique and valuable discoveries. These are the treasures of coins and jewelry, tiles and plates excavated in the old part of Kaunas, the earliest known in Lithuania sculpture “The Žygaičiai Lion”, rare books including the privilege of Vytautas the Great granting the lands and population to the bishop of Samogitia and the Capitula, an impressive painting reminding of the vanity of life “Memento Mori”, and a rather singular exhibit popular in monasteries – a sculpture “Allegory of Time”.

Room 2. The earliest and exceptional images of the Gothic Madonna – the objects of ecclesiastical art in churches in Lithuania. Gothic sculpture appeared in Lithuania only after 1387, the date of the state’s official Christianization, and was initially executed by sculptors from the Chech Republic, Poland, Livonia, Prussia, and Germany. Inspired by the work of foreign artists local masters also began to produce works of art.

Room 3. Details of interiors and apparel, works of art, tapestries, a splendid gallery of portraits – sculptures, paintings, engravings. The exhibits here provide glimpses into the life of the nobility, tell stories of their origin and the acquisition peculiarities.

Representative portraits became popular in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in the 16th century. Often given as diplomatic gifts they served to decorate residencies of the magnates, churches, bishops started to collect works depicting high church figures, monasteries held portraits of their superiors and patrons. Visitors will be admired by the portraits of Kristupas Žygimantas Pacas, the chancellor of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the patron of the sanctuary Pažaislis, and his wife, especially rare portraits of the Oginski, Zawisza families and other representatives of the nobility. Here on display, you will see the only surviving self-portrait on a fan by Tadeusz Kosciuszko, the leader of the uprising of 1794.

Departments of Architecture and Art established in the late 18th century at the University of Vilnius were eventually formed into the Vilnius Art School. The exhibit presents portraits by Jonas Rustemas, head of the Painting Department, and a graduate of this school Karolis Rypinskis. Also included in the exhibition are card sketches by J. Rustemas and the “Siberian Drawings” by Jonas Damelis, the former student of the school.

The stylistic development of Lithuanian art diversified in the middle and second half of the 19th century – with the closing of the University of Vilnius after the 1863 uprising students went to study art in St. Petersburg, Moscow, or Western European countries. Here on display, you will see works by the students from the St. Petersburg Academy of Art, the representatives of new academism Tadeusz Gorecki and Jan Chrucki, romanticists Michał Elwiro Andriolli, Vincentas Dmachauskas, Eduardas Matas Riomeris, and others.

Luxurious Kontush sashes, the Radziwiłł glassware articles, a unique work of art that was an adornment of the Zapyškis church, and a great many other works are ready to disclose engaging stories.