As you know, I am really fond of art. Therefore when I came to Wrocław I planned to visit the exhibitions of the National Museum.
But a little friend has advised me that instead of visiting the main building I take a look at a special exhibition.
This special exhibition is in a special building that is round-shaped.
The reason for this special shape is that it houses a special piece of art - the Panorama of the Battle of Racławice.
A separate building for just one painting you may ask. Well, it is not any painting. It is a huge, 15 meters high and 114 meters long. And all this made at the end of the nineteenth century!
Let's move on to the main gate, the place is very popular amoung tourists and school excursions and we still need to buy tickets.
The Panorama shows a battle that took place in April 1794, during the Kościuszko Uprising, where the existence of Poland was in danger. Its neighbours, Russia, Austria and Prussia have divided most of the territory of Poland between them and were trying to annihilate it completely. Tadeusz Kościuszko was a prominent general, a hero of the American Revolutionary War.
Inside the museum there are some smaller exhibitions directly related to the Panorama, with some small sketches made during the preparatory work. It took 9 months and 9 artists to paint the final picture.
Additionally, there is also an interactive 3D presentation of the battle, showing the movements of the troops. It is round-shaped of course.
Last but not least, before we enter the main part of the building we may look closely at miniatures of soldiers that time. One amazing think about the Battle of Racławice and the Kościuszko Uprising in general was that the professional Polish cavalry ...
... was fighting arm in arm with the peasants. This democracy was very unusual at that time. You will notice that the peasants do not have sabers or firearms but scythes in the upright position.
The soldiers in green are professional Russian Jägers.
Time to finally see the main attraction of the place. The Panorama is a cycloramic picture, which means that the viewers are in the middle and the picture is all around them. This gives and impression of really taking part in the battle itself. Here comes Kościuszko on his faithful horse, wearing a long white coat. behind him you see the scythe-bearers.
You can see how determined they are.
The cavalry is not lazy either. One amazing thing about this particular panorama is that the picture is "extended" by some additional elements. Like this cannon - it is not painted, it is a real one, just like the sand and some of the tree trunks.
Here you can see the green Russian soldiers fleeing in panic. The battle of Racławice was a huge success of the Polish forces.
Unfortunately, one won battle did not translate into a won war. Kościuszko and his forces were defeated a few months later and Poland lost its independence for over a century. The memories of the battle of Racławice were a national jewel for a nation without a country. The Panorama was created in 1894 and was originally exhibited in Lwów, which at that time belonged to Austria.
After World War I, Poland regained its independence and Lwów was a Polish city again. It did not last long, since after World War II the borders of Poland were changed again. Lwów became part of Ukraine while Wrocław (which used to be a German city known as Breslau), became Polish. The Panorama of the Battle of Racławice was moved from Lwów to Wrocław (together with many inhabitants of the city) but was not exhibited for many years since the communist party would not allow to celebrate a victory over Russians. The picture was made availabe to the public only in 1985.
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