Artists and Craftsmen in Sluck in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries (Summary)

Юрий Пискун (PDF)

The private cities of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries contributed significantly to the development of the artistic life of the state. This article presents data on the representatives of the artistic professions in Slutsk, the largest private town of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania (GDL), found in documents from 1683 to 1767, which are kept in the Central Archives of Historical Records in Warsaw. The inventories and tax records of the town made it possible to determine how many and what kind of artists (mainly painters and icon masters) lived in Slutsk during the 80 years and to investigate their social and financial situation, comparing it with that of other craftsmen.

The inventory of 1683 and the tax register of 1689 show that 11 artists lived in Slutsk at that time. Artistic professions accounted for 3 % of the total number of craftsmen in Slutsk in 1689. Compared to other private towns in the GDL, their relatively large number remained fairly constant throughout the eighteenth century.

The tax register of 1712 mentions five painters. The decline in their number reflects the stagnation of artistic life during the Great Northern War.

Between 1740 and 1750, Slutsk became the residence of Hieronim Florian Radziwiłł (1715–1760). At that time, a silk band weaving manufactory was relocated from Nesvizh to Slutsk, and a glass manufactory was established in Urechcha, near Slutsk. Despite the decline of the town in the first third of the eighteenth century and a decrease in its population, Slutsk remained one of the main centres of trade and craft of the GDL and the largest private town until the middle of the century. The Principality of Slutsk was the only large territory of the Republic in the eighteenth century where the Orthodox Church was not united with the Roman Catholic Church, and most of the population was Orthodox. In 1750, the inventory and tax records of Slutsk list 1048 hearths. These documents mention 15 artists who had lived or recently left the town but owned property there. The increase in its number was related to establishing Radziwiłł’s residence in Slutsk.

The 1767 inventory mentions only the names of eight artists. It indicates an imminent stagnation of the city’s artistic life.

It is impossible to attribute the authorship of specific works to the artists of Slutsk because they usually did not sign the icons they painted. The biography of the icon painter Bazyli Markianowicz from Slutsk is an exception. He inscribed his name on one work, the icon Deesis. The expressive painting style of this icon allows us to attribute the authorship of 11 other surviving icons and two portraits to Bazyli Markianowicz.

Keywords: Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, Hieronim Florian Radziwiłł, manufactories, Nesvizh, Bazyli Markianowicz