This painting was recognized as one of the masterpieces among portraits by Rodakowski. His contemporary critics praised the beauty of the depiction and the excellence of the facial characterization. Cardinal – the painting which does not show a specific clergyman – may serve as the painter’s symbolic response to the political situation of France around the middle of the century. At that time the Church was attacked by Republicans who aimed to reduce the influence of this institution. An encyclical by Pope Pius XI (1864) expressed his negative view of the liberal circles, active all over Europe. Rodakowski portrayed the cardinal at the moment of preaching, teaching the congregation based on an old, time-honoured book. He has been elevated above the crowd in the church, placed on the pulpit and, at the same time, his figure has been brought closer to the viewer in some unrealistic way – in fact the viewer would have to hang in the air to see the cardinal’s face in close-up. By monumentalizing an anonymous cardinal, Rodakowski created a kind of allegory of the authority of the clergy, and, by distancing himself from anticlerical caricatures and satires, he expressed his support for restoring the dignity of the Church.


  • Title: Cardinal
  • Creator: Henryk Rodakowski
  • Date Created: 1865
  • Medium: oil, canvas

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