The Panorama of the Battle of Racławice
The Panorama of the Battle of Racławice is among one of the very few places in the world where it is possible to admire a relic of 19th century popular culture. This huge canvas (15 × 114 m), owing to a unique combination of the painters’ technical skills (a special perspective) and purely technical means (lighting, artificial yet realistic surroundings, and the winding, deliberately darkened approach to the display) ‘transport’ the visitors into a different reality and time.
This monumental painting commemorating the historic battle of Racławice was meant to be the star attraction during the General National Exposition organized in the city of Lwów [now Lviv in Ukraine] in 1894. Jan Styka, who conceived the idea of the Panorama and was its co-creator, thought that the battle with its victorious outcome would provide the most meaningful tribute to the 100th anniversary of the Kościuszko Insurgence and pay respect to the heroes defending their country on the eve of the final partition treaty of Poland. He was absolutely correct in his convictions because from the very day of its opening on 5 June 1894, the Panorama became the must-see point on the tourist map of Lwów and, almost a hundred years later, of Wrocław.
Both the subject of the painting and its form created a stimulating attraction for the contemporary viewers. At the end of the 19th century panoramas were a highly popular form of entertainment, comparable to the 3D cinema of today. A very different perspective and the illusionary qualities of the picture made a strong impression and the audiences were willingly ‘swept away’ into a different world created by the artists, and almost became the participants in those events. All this, affects the views of modern observers differently, one who is accustomed with the sophisticated effects obtained with modern technologies, causing them to approach the great canvas and contemplate its appeal. While visiting the Wrocław rotunda housing, the first and only surviving Polish artefact of its kind, we can attempt to find our own answer to this question.
The Small Rotunda
The special purpose-built room showcases the presentation of the historical aspects of the Battle of Racławice. The entrance is located behind the ticket office, next to the viewing platform.
In the central part of the rotunda there is a three-dimensional topographic map of the area on which the battle was fought. The positions and movements of the troops in the battle are marked with coloured LEDs – yellow for Polish and green for Russian. The events of the battle, based on the historical sources, are described by the commentary read by a lector (available in six languages: Polish, English, German, Russian, French and Spanish), and additionally illuminated with the relevant parts of the LED system. This enables to compare the available historical information with the artistic vision of Styka and Kossak.
Around the display area there are cabinets showing the exhibition “The Army Colours and Weapons used during the Battle of Racławice on 4 April 1794”, which features 107 figurines of Polish and Russian soldiers dressed in the army uniforms worn at that time. The display cabinets placed at the entrance to the Small Rotunda also showcase the sketches made by Jan Styka and Wojciech Kossak in April 1893 during their visit to the battlefield, and the hand-painted design of the poster announcing the exhibition of the Panorama in Lwów in 1894.
The Main Hall
In the area of the Main Hall there are four semi-circular annexes located in the split-level bays in the south wall, which contain multi-media presentations providing more detailed knowledge about the Panorama of the Battle of Racławice, the artists who created it, its convoluted history, and the technicalities concerning conservation of the canvas, as well as more information about other panoramic paintings in Europe.
The first annex, opposite the entrance, shows a three-dimensional map marking the military campaign of the Kościuszko Insurgency from Kraków through Racławice, Szczekociny, Połaniec, Warsaw to Maciejowice.
The second annex, features an on-screen presentation of other Polish and European panoramas, and of the artists who created the Panorama of the Battle of Racławice (in Polish only).
The third annex screens a film telling the story of the conservation process of the canvas of the Panorama of the Battle of Racławice which preceded its exhibition in the Wrocław rotunda.
The fourth annex, shows the English-language filmed presentations of the panoramas in the second annex.
Tadeusz Kościuszko in Phaleristics
19 March 2019 – 31 July 2020
Badges, medallions, lockets, pins, buttons and other souvenirs which commemorate Tadeusz Kościuszko and the occasions linked with him, are presented on display in the reception area of the Museum of the Panorama of the Battle of Racławice. The exhibition was organized to commemorate the 225th anniversary of the Kościuszko Insurrection as well as the 125th anniversary of the creation of the great canvas by Jan Styka and Wojciech Kossak.
The exhibits originate from the period of the 1772–1795 partition treaties, as well as the 20th and 21st cent., from such countries as Poland, Australia, Belarus, France, Switzerland and the USA. All these phaleristic artefacts of the patriotic, military, organizational, educational, sports and tourism-related character have in common their celebration the central figure of the Panorama of the Battle of Racławice, General Tadeusz Kościuszko.
The exhibits represent part of the ”Kościuszko Iconography” assembled by Krzysztof Lachowicz, art collector from Wrocław, the owner of the largest collection of Kościuszko memorabilai in Poland.
„Illustrious Visitors of the Panorama of the Battle of Racławice”
The photographs of celebrated visitors to the Panorama are shown in the display cabinet in the Main Hall, among them Pope John Paul II, Queen Beatrix of Holland, King of Belgium Albert II, and their signatures in the Visitors Book.
The Kościuszko Bookplates
The selection of the award-winning bookplates dedicated to Tadeusz Kościuszko, from the international competition organized annually at the Panorama of the Battle of Racławice.