This painting is unique in Polish painting of the first half of the 19th century in that it documents one of Warsaw’s first-ever art exhibitions. While the exhibition was still open, Wincenty Kasprzycki painted a scene from the event, held in the mineralogy department of the University of Warsaw. For today’s viewers, the painting is an unparalleled source of information on the philosophy and approach to showing art in the first Polish exhibitions.
We see the paintings arranged on a wooden framework in three rows. It was possible to identify some of the works on the basis of information contained in the exhibition catalogue and in press reviews of the event. The top row featured paintings by artists like Franciszek Lampi and Antoni Brodowski. In the middle row we find floral compositions by Henryka Beyer, while the lowest tier displays copies of works by Dutch painters. In the depths of the hall, we notice two monumental compositions, Antoni Brodowski’s Tsar Alexander I Establishing the University of Warsaw and Antoni Blank’s Oedipus at Kolonos. Both examples of Warsaw Classicism, the two works are today believed to have perished.
On the right-hand side, along the wall with windows, Kasprzycki depicts the artists whose works appear in the exhibition. Some of them have been identified. The first seated gentleman on the right is Kasprzycki himself, a little further, seen with a display case behind him is Antoni Brodowski, and the most distant figure shown head-on is the exhibition’s organiser Antoni Blank. The man in the foreground holding a snuff box is most likely Aleksander Kokular, while the seated man, third from the right, is probably Marcin Zaleski. After the painting’s completion the artist submitted it to be shown in the very exhibition it depicts.