- Jozef Brandt
Song of the Cossack Victors
- signed Józef Brandt and inscribed Warszawy/Monachium (lower right)
- oil on canvas
Sale: Galerie Hugo Helbing, Munich, October 24, 1911, lot 18
Kommerzienrat Heinrich Morgenstern, Fürth, Germany
Sale: Rudolf Lepke, Berlin, sale 2126, November 22-24, 1938, lot 6, illustrated, as Siegreiche Heimkehr (involuntary sale by the above)
American Private Collector
Sale: Parke-Bernet, New York, May 14, 1969, lot 122, illustrated, as Cossacks on the March
American Private Collector (acquired at the above sale, deceased 1970)
Mrs. Leon W. Powell, Stuart, Florida (by inheritance from her late father)
Mr. and Mrs. Eugene Slotkowski (acquired from the above, October 17, 1972)
Frances Slotkowski Declaration of Trust
Tygodnik Ilustrowany, September 4, 1893, no. 194, Warsaw, illustrated as cover
Czeslaw Jankowski, "Na malarskiej niwie", Tygodnik Ilustrowany, Warsaw, April 17, 1893, no. 174, pp. 247, 266
Swiat, Warsaw, 1893, p. 221, illustrated
Irena Olchowska-Schmidt, Josef Brandt, Krakow, 1996, p. 19, illustrated
One of Brandt's favorite painting subjects were scenes of Cossacks. Throughout the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, Cossacks lived in the southeastern frontier of the former Polish Republic (the territories now belonging to Ukraine), then called Zaporozhe, on the banks of the Dnieper river. Zaporozhe bordered a powerful Turkish Crimean Khanate, and the inevitable skirmishes that arose demanded an exceptionally brave and agile light cavalry for defense.
Brandt's first major composition of the Zaporozhe Cossacks was his Greeting the Steppe, intended for the museum in Królewiec. Inspired by Bohdan Zaleski's poem "The Chocim Campaign," it depicts Hetman (the military title for the second highest commander) Piotr Konaszewicz–Sahajdaczny, followed by a music band and the rest of the riders. Audiences in Austria (1875), Berlin (1876) and the Paris Salon of 1877 praised this exuberant scene of an "exotic" triumphant army painted in an impressive panorama format with the figures in profile, in contrast with traditional, static depictions of a cavalry. In 1891 Brandt returned to this theme with his The Song though here the Cossacks are facing the viewer dramatically riding toward the viewer.
The present work is a vertical version of The Song and now focuses on the central figure, the standard bearer of the Cossack cavalry, heading the march of the troops. On the right is the musical band, while at left Turkish captives are escorted alongside camel caravans heavy with war loot. The scene refers to the victorious campaign of Chocim in 1621, in which Hetman Konaszewicz–Sahajdaczny led his 30,000 fighters against 100,000 Turks who had besieged the Polish-Lithuanian army. Originally titled Zaporozhe After the Battle, the canvas was painted and presented to the public in Munich in 1892, and exhibited a year later at Zachêta Society of Fine Arts. The painting was reproduced as a drawing on the cover of Tygodnik Ilustrowany, at the time Warsaw's most popular illustrated magazine, and then in the weekly Swiat where it became known as Return of the Victors.
In his mature period Jozef Brandt became more interested in portraying life on the vast steppe of the Polish frontier, leaving behind smaller, more intimate scenes. For historical accuracy, he read the seventeenth century diaries of Jan Chryzostom Pasek, who wrote of soldiers' belief that singing songs in praise of God (such as a traditional Polish combat song "Bogurodzica" or "Mother of God") before a battle could save their lives. After a victorious campaign, during the journey to their homeland Cossacks "welcomed the steppe with a joyful choral singing". Brandt's realistically rendered scene of singing Cossacks evokes the uncanny sensation of actually hearing the music. Such skill in painting evocative expression, combined with the splendor of the attire, armaments and outfit of the figures portrayed on the canvas, brought the artist spectacular professional success.
We would like to thank Mariusz Klarecki for kindly providing the catalogue note.
This painting is being offered pursuant to an agreement between the heirs of Heinrich Morgenstern and the Frances Slotkowski Declaration of Trust. As part of the agreement, the consignor has arranged for the buyer to receive at no additional cost a title insurance policy (ATPI®) issued by ARIS Title Insurance Corporation.