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Panorama of the Battle of Racławice | ul. Purkyniego 11 | 50-155 Wrocław


Panorama of the Battle of Racławice

PANORAMA OF THE BATTLE OF RACŁAWICE in Wrocław, an impressive relic of 19th-century century mass culture, is one of only few examples of this genre preserved in Europe. The large painting (15 × 114 m) 'transfers' the viewer into an altogether different time, a reality of its own, by artfully combining painterly devices (special kind of perspective) and technical effects (lighting, artificial terrain, dark and usually tortuous passage to the viewing platform). Panoram of the Battle of Racławice is the oldest and only extant example of panorama painting in Poland.

The idea came from the painter Jan Styka (1858–1925) in Lwów (Lvov) who invited the renown battle-painter Wojciech Kossak (1857–1942) to participate in the project. They were assisted by Ludwik Boller, Tadeusz Popiel, Zygmunt Rozwadowski, Teodor Axentowicz, Włodzimierz Tetmajer, Wincenty Wodzinowski and Michał Sozański.

The project was conceived as a patriotic manifestation commemorating the 100th anniversary of the victorious Battle of Racławice, a famous episode of the Kościuszko Insurrection, a heroic but in the end fallen attempt to defend Polish independence. The battle was fought on 4 April 1794 between the insurrectionist force of regulars and peasant volunteers (awesome scythe-bearers) under Kościuszko (1746–1817) himself and the Russian army commanded by General Tormasov. For the nation which had lost its independence, the memory of this glorious victory was particularly important. The National Exhibition, organized in Lwów in 1894, offered an excellent opportunity to realize Styka`s idea. Canvas, woven to order, was bought in Brussels, the specially-built rotunda's iron structure (designed by Ludwik Ramułt) in Vienna. The rotunda, located in Stryjski Park in Lwów, was ready in July 1893. The huge panorama painting was executed within 9 months, between August 1893 and may 1894. The official opening was on 5 June 1894. Since the very beginning, Panorama of the Battle of Racławice attracted enormous attention and brought crowds of tourists to Lwów.

After World War II, the painting was brought to Wrocław along with a part of the collection of the Ossoliński Institution. As under the Communist regime the subject was considered politically sensitive, the efforts to have the canvas restored and exhibited, undertaken by succesive Volunteer Committees, were successful only after August 1980. Reopened on 14 July 1985, the major attraction of the old Lwów has immediately become the main tourist attraction of Wrocław.

Here, contemporary viewers hav an opportunity to participate in a unique illusionist spectacle. Among many guests visiting the panorama were Pope John Paul II, Beatrix, the Queen of Holland, and Czesław Miłosz, winner of the 1980 Nobel Prize for Literature.


Small Rotunda

This is a purpose-built exhibition room accessible from the Main Hall housing a presentation devoted to the historical context of the Battle of Racławice. The entrance is located behind the ticket office, next to the entrance to the viewing platform. The central section of the rotunda features a relief map representing the topography of the battlefield. Yellow diodes mark the positions and movements of the Polish army, green diodes - of the Russian troops. The course of the battle is elucidated by a recorded commentary (available in Polish, English, German, Russian, French, and Spanish) and enlivened by the lighting of the diodes in appropriate sections of the battlefield. The presentation helps the viewer confront the artistic vision of Kossak and Styka with historical reality. The display cases located along the walls present the Uniforms and Weapons of the Armies Fighting in the Battle of Racławice on 4 April 1794 exhibition in the form of 107 figurines of Polish and Russian soldiers in their uniforms. The display cases located by the entrance to the Small Rotunda contain sketches made by Kossak and Styka on site, on the former battlefield close to the village of Racławice, in April 1893 and the original painted design for the poster announcing the inauguration of the Racławice Panorama during the National Exhibition in Lvov in 1894.


Main Hall

Four semi-circular apses feature multimedia presentations devoted to the project, the artists, the painting's history and its conservation, and to other European panoramas.

  1. Annex I (opposite of the entrance) – relief map retracing the main battles of the Kościuszko Insurrection: Kraków – Racławice – Szczekociny – Połaniec – Warsaw – Maciejowice.
  2. Annex II – a video presentation devoted to other Polish panoramas, European panoramas, and the authors of the Panorama of the Battle of Racławice (Polish version).
  3. Annex III – a video presentation showing the conservation of the Panorama of the Battle of Racławice and installing it in the Rotunda in Wrocław (Polish version).
  4. Annex IV – the video presentations as in Annexes II and III – in English.


Temporary exhibitions

The permanent exhibition Celebrities at the Panorama of the Battle of Racławice (also featured in the hall) documents the distinguished visitors to the museum (Pope John Paul II, Queen Beatrix of Holland, Kong of the Belgians Albert II) and their written comments in the Book of Guests.