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Ljubica D. Popović
language. Some poems, however, besides describing events from real life, also dealt with the supernatural.94 These types of verbal images did not lend themselves to easy vi- sual translations. among the moving epic poems of the Kosovo Cycle which describe heroic sacrifices and a mar- tyr’s death, there is one poem with unique content. it is the poem called Obretenije Glave Kneza Lazara, the title inadequately translated as The Finding of Prince Lazar’s Head.95 Such a prosaic translation may indicate the sub- ject of the poem but loses true mystical meaning. The story tells how the head of Prince Lazar, severed after the lead- er’s capture during the Battle of Kosovo, was dropped into a well. it was wondrously preserved intact in the well’s cold water and discovered after forty years. at this time, the head miraculously joined the body once again. This miracle took place during the night, and the “shining head” seen in the well was considered to be the “shining moon” by its discoverer, the young son of a Turk by an enslaved Serbian girl. The epic verses describe this supernatural happening in the following manner:
...”help us, O God and Holy Saint!”
into the spring the third youth steps,
and from the spring he lifts the head,
The head of Serbian Saint Lazar.
He places it upon green grass.
With water then, he fills his jug.
When thirsty men had quenched their thirst. and looked again upon black earth.
Upon green grass, the head was gone.
alone it moved across the field—
Toward sacred form moved sacred head— To join together, as before!96
Such a rare and unusual theme inspired an iconograph- ically unique subject in the Serbian art of the post-medi- eval period. Understandably, it has no parallels in euro- pean art of the same era. To the best of this author’s knowl- edge, it was represented only twice in Serbian painting during the early decades of the twentieth century, and once, more recently, in 1971.
94 To such a category belong, among others, the poems Smrt Ma- jke Jugovića, Ženidba kralja Vukašina, and Početak bune protiv da- hija; see: V. Djurić (ed.), Antologija, pp. 285, 181, and 651, respectively.
95 Zora Devrnja Zimmerman, Serbian Folk Poetry: Ancient Leg- ends, Romantic Songs (Columbus, Ohio: Kosovo Publishing Co., 1986), p. 195.
96 a. jevtić (ed.), Zadužbine Kosova, p. 213. For the english trans- lation, Z. Devrnja Zimmerman; Serbian Folk Poetry, p. 197:
“Pomoz’, Bože, i oče Nikola!” / Pa zagazi u vodu kladenca, /Te izva- di iz kladenca glavu Svetitelja Srpskoga Lazara, / Pa je meće na zele- nu travu,/ I zaiti vode u kondiru. / Dok se žedni vodom obrediše, / Kad su crnoj zemlji pogledali, / Nesta glave sa zelene trave, / Ode glava preko polja sama, / Sveta glava do svetoga tela, / Pripoji se kako što je’ i bila.”
in 1905, Djordje Krstić painted the earliest of the ver- sions of this subject.97 at that time this realist painter still treated some of his subject matter in the spirit of Roman- ticism. The severed head of Prince Lazar dominates this rather small, vertical canvas (52 x 80 cm). The head seems enormous as it appears to emerge from a clouded but dra- matically lit sky. it levitates above the night landscape, il- luminated by a fire. Darkness obscures the earth, thus al- lowing the artist to omit detailed descriptions of the hap- penings on the ground. The head is nimbed, the circular light symbolizing the sanctity of Prince Lazar. The image of the face, with its sunken cheeks, closed eyes, high fore- head, and long hair and beard, emanates a powerful but calm expression. Typo logically, the head of Prince Lazar can be related to the exalted image of St. john the Baptist, represented frequently in medieval and post-medieval art.98 Once again, an artist of the modem era imbues an image with a sense of sanctity by using visual associations with the iconographic features of religious art.
Marko Murat (1864–1944), an artist stylistically ori- ented toward the Secessionist movement and consequent- ly inclined toward heavy symbolism, created the second version of this miraculous happening in 1912 or 1914.99 His large representation (220 x 150 cm) clearly superimposes two different worlds, the real and the mystical. Murat also depicts a night scene, clearly respecting the words of the poem. in the center of the composition the body of a young man, his head inclined toward his left shoulder, assumes the pose reminiscent of a crucified figure. His reflection seen in the water of the well, shows in the foreground. above the youth as if emerging from his body, appears the head of Prince Lazar, mysteriously lit. Surrounded by a large nimbus represented only as an outline, the head itself is so highlighted that it seems to radiate light from within. Crowned with the wreath of martyrdom, this im- age of Prince Lazar, as those already mentioned, assumes a Christ-like quality. in the foreground two youths, one kneeling, the other standing, witness the event. They flank the central figures while the moonlit landscape of Koso- vo unfolds behind them.
Milić of Mačva (Milić Stanković) painted the third, more recent work depicting this subject in 1971.100 The year coincided with that in which Kruševac, the capital
98 Svetozar Radojčić, Staro srpsko slikarstvo (Belgrade: Nolit, 1966), pi. 63; B. Vujović, Umetnost obnovljene Srbije, figs. 72, 98, 103, 110, 112 and 113.
99 D. Medaković, Srpski slikari XVIII–XX veka, pp. 303–14. D. Medaković judges the painting Obretenije Glave Kneza Lazara un- successful due to its heavy dependency on literary sources of inspira- tion and gives the year 1912 as its date (p. 311). However, Vera Ristić indicates that this painting was signed and dated 1914 in Marko Mu- rat (Belgrade: Narodni muzej, 1969), p. 21 and catalogue No 30.
100 Mihaljčić, “The Historical Role,” pp. 344–47, figure on page 24.
D. Medaković, Srpski slikari XVIII-XX veka, p. 252; M. Kolarić, Djordje Krstić, fig. on page 92; Kosovska Bitka: mit, legenda i stvar- nost, unnumbered color plate.

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