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Ljubica D. Popović
ular painting may have happened either consciously or unconsciously on the part of the artist. Whenever such formal transformations took place, they served to facili- tate the visual recognition of a given pseudo-historical image by a public cognizant of religious iconography. at the same time, such formal migrations from one genre of painting to another may have stimulated in the mind of the beholder the transfiguration of an illustrated histori- cal scene into an exalted, semi-devotional image.
During the Baroque phase of Serbian painting, histori- cal compositions inspired by the national past served pri- marily didactic purposes.64 artists in the Neoclassic pe- riod, however, had little use for such a genre and focused their efforts in other directions.65 With the advent of the Romantic movement in Serbia (1848–78),66 which in Ser- bian painting outlived its counterpart in Western europe, the spirit of the time and the subjects inspired by the na- tional past forged a fruitful union. While the famous eu- ropean masters of this period frequently sought inspira- tion in “exotic” lands outside their own countries— those inhabited by the arabs or Turks67—to Serbian painters, good or modest, such exotic imagery was an inseparable part of their own heritage.
What are, then, the general impressions about Serbi- an painting of the second half of the nineteenth century? although every generalization falls short of the absolute truth, Serbian painting seems to assume a dual character when dealing with historical compositions. it is both nar- rative and metaphysical. When narrative, it evokes visual impressions not only through colors, but through the sto- ries told. Such an artistic approach reflects the gregari- ous nature of the Serbian people and their strong tradi- tion of oral literature. above all, this narrative approach springs from the same source that inspired Vuk Karadžić’s publication of Serbian epic poetry and from the accep- tance of the people’s spoken language as the literary lan- guage. The visual tradition of sacred art inspired the meta- physical nature of the painted scene which was calculat-
64 Dejan Medaković, Tragom srpskog baroka (Novi Sad, Matica srpska, 1976), p. 193.
65 For the preferred subjects among Neoclassical Serbian artists, see: Miodrag Kolarić, Klasicizam kod Srba (Belgrade: Prosveta, 1965), passim; as a typical composition which combined classical inspira- tion with a national subject, Apoteoza Lukijana Mušickog [The Apo- theosis of Lukijan Mušicki), painted in 1840 by Dimitrije avramović (1815–55), can be cited. For this work, see: Dejan Medaković, Srpska umetnost u XIX veku (Belgrade: S. K. Z, 1981), pp. 99–107, fig. 26.
66 Miodrag jovanović, Srpsko slikarstvo u doba Romantizma 1848–1878 (Novi Sad: Matica srpska, 1976), passim.
67 For european painters whose works were inspired by the peo- ple, costumes and animals of North africa and the near east, see: Mary anne Stevens (ed.), The Orientalists: Delacroix to Matisse: The Allure of North Africa and the Near East, exhibition held 1 july-28 October 1984 (Washington: National Gallery, 1984), passim. For the work of Delacroix with such motifs, see: Rene Huyghe, Delacroix (New York: Harry a. abrams, inc., 1963), pis. ill; V; Xi; XViii; XXi; XXii; XXV; XXVii; XLVii and figs. 48; 52; 140; 204; 206; and 207.
ed to appeal to the innate religious sentiment of the be- holder.68
Thus, very meager historical facts and, more specifi- cally, poetical fiction, became sources of inspiration for the painters of the Romantic period who represented his- torical subjects in general and Kosovo themes in particu- lar. These artists combined formal elements borrowed from various styles—contemporary and traditional. The latter, based on religious images, often bordered stylistically on the folkloric.69
Such literary and visual mixtures occur mostly in the works of artists desiring to popularize episodes from the Kosovo themes through consumer- oriented media such as engravings. These works were of a primarily illustra- tive nature. Their creators used carefully chosen, familiar quotations from the Kosovo Cycle of epic poetry as the starting point of inspiration. These together with well- known formal borrowings from traditional painting had an irresistible popular appeal. These prints are artistically rather naive, appropriate for an art medium specifically designated for home consumption by the visually unso- phisticated citizens of nineteenth-century Serbia.
among the Serbian painters of the Romantic period, some either planned or executed a number of works de- picting a subject inspired by the Kosovo events. a few of these works will be explored in this paper by introducing the subjects as they relate to the popularly accepted se- quence of the Battle of Kosovo. in this manner, it is the author’s hope to recreate in the mind of the contempo- rary viewer the visual concept of that event as perceived during the second half of the nineteenth century. artists of various abilities and training created the images in ques- tion. Some of these works, the products of mediocre art- ists, border on the naive. Such paintings are even more interesting than those by well-trained masters, since they most clearly reveal not only literary but also visual sourc- es of inspiration.
For example, when depicting Prince Lazar sa porodi- com (Prince Lazar and his Family) (1870–71) as a group portrait, adam Stefanović (1832–77) and Pavle Čortano- vić (1830–1903) imply a sacrificial theme by placing an altar-like table in the center of the composition.70 its cov-
69 excellent examples of traditional iconography and folkloric style are to be found in many of the paintings produced by master zoog- raphers working in the territories of the Serbian Dukedom. See: Branko Vujović, Umetnost obnovljene Srbije 1791–1848 (Belgrade: Prosveta, 1986), pp. 239–67, figs. 36, 40, 49, 67, 68, 75, 83, 84, 88, 102, 106, 108, and many others.
70 Miodrag Kolarić, Nikola Kusovac, and Vera Ristić, Srpsko sli- karstvo XIX veka (Zagreb, 1965), pp. 25–35; Miodrag jovanović, Srp-
The publication of epic poetry by Vuk Stefanović Karadžić, Mala prostonarodna slavenoserbska pesnarica (Vienna, 1814), and Vuk Stefanović Karadžić, Srpske narodne pjesme, v. iV (Vienna, 1862). For the language reform and the ensuing struggle, see: jovan Skerlić, Is- torija nove srpske književnosti, 2nd ed. (Belgrade: Prosveta, 1967), pp. 236–37.

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