Gallery of Matica Srpska

Selected works from the Gallery of Matica Srpska.

Medal (1861) by Design: Aksentije Marodić (Subotica, 1838 – Novi Sad, 1909)Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Serbia

Тhe Gallery of Matica srpska was founded in 1847 in Pest (former part of Budapest) under the auspices of The Matica srpska, the oldest cultural, literary and scientific institution of Serbian people. The Matica srpska was moved to Novi Sad in 1864, the collection was also transferred and shown to the public in 1933, when the Museum of the Matica srpska was finally made official. In 1947 this collection, except for art, was granted to the newly opened Museum of Vojvodina, while the works of art formed a special collection called The Gallery of Matica srpska. The permanent collection is chronologically presenting the Serbian national art from the 16th to the 20th century and its integration into the mainstream of modern European art.

Тhe portraits

During the 18th century, at the time when the bourgeoisie was assuming the leading position in the economic and cultural development of the Serbian nation, the portrait appeared as an independent art form. It testified to the individuals’ conscious needs to leave behind evidence of their own and their families’ position in the society. This commemorative art form enabled the sitters to express various contents having to do with their status in ways as different as the memorial, ceremonial, idealized or allegorical.  

Jovan Popović Tekelija (1716) by Anonymous 18th century painterMinistry of Culture of the Republic of Serbia

Jovan Popović Tekelija

The portrait of Jovan Popović Tekelija is a typical ceremonial portrait with all the trappings characteristic of his social status as the forbear of a noble family. He is dressed in a red coat adorned with gilded buttons and embroidery, on top of which he wears a cape trimmed with fur. 

Around the waist he has a five-fold black girdle, while his chest is decorated with two medals that he obtained for his war service – symbols of well-earned distinction and recognized privilege.

In the portrait he stands leaning against a table with his right arm holding a mace, while his left hand rests on a sword – symbols of military profession and the high position he was holding.

A drapery can be seen in the background and the family coat of arms painted in the right corner, with Jovan’s initials on top – symbols of the newly acquired social status.  

Sava Tekelija as a Young Man (1785/1786) by Georgije Tenecki, 18th century painterMinistry of Culture of the Republic of Serbia

Sava Tekelija as a Young Man

The portrait Sava Tekelija as a Young Man is an exceptional work of art in the Rococo style, inspired by the ideas of Sentimentalism. Albeit with some reservations, it is attributed to Georgije Tenecki. In an oval, half-length portrait, the young Sava Tekelija is depicted in the clothes of Hungarian noblemen with a white shirt and lace jabot and a wig on his head. The motive for the painting of this portrait may have been the graduation from the law school at the Royal University in Pest in 1785, or more likely, the defense of the doctoral thesis in 1786. This important occasion had to be marked in the best possible way, and it is not implausible that this portrait is the work of an accomplished Middle-European painter.  

Count Nako (1780/1790) by Anonymous 18th century painterMinistry of Culture of the Republic of Serbia

Count Nako

The painting is the portrait of Count Nako, descendant of an Aromanian family from Macedonia. The portrait of Count Nako shows a relatively young man dressed in sumptuous clothes made of red velvet with gold ornaments, accompanied with a coat trimmed with fur. With his dignified posture and elegant clothes, the sitter of this portrait testifies to his high position in the society and affiliation with the nobility.  

Military Commander Stefan Knićanin (1849) by Uroš Knežević (Sremski Karlovci, 1811 – Belgrade, 1876)Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Serbia

Military Commander Stefan Knićanin

One of the most representative portraits of Stefan Knićanin is the one painted in 1849 by Uroš Knežević. The motive for the painting of this portrait was Knićanin’s tremendous contribution to the success of the battle for Pančevo in 1848.

As a token of gratitude for the successful defense of the city of Pančevo against the Hungarian forces in 1848, the city council and the citizens of Pančevo presented him with a canon, In the half-length portrait, Uroš Knežević painted the Commander in life size, lavishly dressed in clothes embroidered with silver and gold thread.  

His chest is decorated with medals and the wide waistband holds two pistols and a knife with the engraved name Stefan Knićanin. His right hand, holding a spyglass, rests on the canon, while the other hand is clasped round the sabre. Behind him is a battlefield with soldiers and army tents, taking most of the background, with the outlines of Pančevo in the distance.  

Emperor Joseph II (1763/1768) by Joseph Hickel (Bohemian Liepa, 1736 – Vienna, 1807)Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Serbia

Emperor Joseph II

This is the portrait in half-length of the young Emperor Joseph II, son of the Empress Maria Theresa, with his body turned to the left and the head to the right, while the eyes are directed towards the viewer. He is dressed in the dark green uniform of the light cavalry regiment, below which is visible a yellow brocade vest, white lace collar and the royal sash.

The Gold Fleece medal hanging on a short lace is the symbol of his loyalty to this order of chivalry, while on the uniform coat there are the ribbons and stars of the orders of Maria Theresa and Saint Stefan. 

The face of the young Emperor bears traces of pain and grief that he surely felt after the recent death of his first wife, Isabella of Parma and their new-born baby daughter. The portrait of Emperor Joseph II was probably painted by Joseph Hickel, a painter of Czech origin.  

Petar Jagodić of Krnjača (1829/1831) by Konstantin Danil (Lugoj, ca. 1802 – Veliki Bečkerek, 1873)Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Serbia

Petar Jagodić of Krnjača

Konstantin Danil painted the portraits of the members of a landowning family, the ‘highborn’ Jagodićes of Krnjača. The virtuosity of the painting technique and the deep insight into the character of the sitter make the portrait of Petar Jagodić one of the most beautiful portraits among those painted by Danil.

At the time when this portrait was painted Petar Jagodić was still a young man who had just graduated from law school and had been sworn in as a solicitor in 1826, all of which had contributed to the portrait’s character. Against a neutral dark brown background stands a young, self-confident man, dressed in a black coat with high collar out of which protrudes a white shirt. His right hand rests on the silver hilt of a sword, with the left hand placed above it.  

Dositej Obradović (1819) by Arsenije Teodorović (Perlez, 1767 – Novi Sad, 1826)Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Serbia

Dositej Obradović

Arsenije Teodorović, the painter of Dositej’s portrait is best known as the painter of icons, although, from the esthetic and stylistic point of view, his greatest achievements lie in the domain of portraiture. In the portrait Dositej Obradović is presented at halflength, with a serious expression, dressed in a white shirt and dark brown coat. The firm modeling, restrained palette and simplicity of composition indicate the classicistic manner in which this portrait was painted. Dositej Obradović, who was respected already during his lifetime, was held in great esteem throughout the 19th century and his cult was formed within the frames of the idea of national heroes.  

Dr. Atanasije Stojković (1828) by Pavel Đurković (Baja, 1772 – Constantinople (?), ca. 1830)Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Serbia

Dr. Atanasije Stojković

Pavel Đurković painted the portrait of Atanasije Stojković, who at the time was professor of physics and chancellor of the University of Kharkov. The oval-shaped portrait shows a young-looking man dressed in a black coat with gilt buttons and a high red collar decorated with goldwork embroidery.

Under the coat he has a white shirt with a stand-up collar and a red ribbon with the medal of the third grade Order of Saint Vladimir which Stojković received from the Russian Tsar Alexander I, together with two other medals, meticulously painted in red and gold.

This portrait is a testimony to the outstanding status and reputation of Atanasije Stojković, a scientist, writer and erudite who had been educated at German Universities of Göttingen and Jena.  

Jovan Jovanović as a Young Man (1854) by Novak Radonić (Mol, 1826 – Sremska Kamenica, 1890)Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Serbia

Jovan Jovanović as a Young Man

Novak Radonić achieved most as a painter of portraits, the art form in which his talent truly came to the fore. The portrait of his friend Jovan Jovanović, latter also known by the epithet Zmaj, belongs to this group and was painted in 1854. The portrait Jovan Jovanović as a Young Man presents the poet as a Romantic hero: he is shown in waist-length, dressed in a short, Hungarian- style coat, but the main attention is concentrated on his face.

Jovanović wears a hat with a wide brim that throws a gossamer-like shadow on the upper part of his face, so that his eyes are in a shade, while the lower parts of the face, overgrown in a gold-colored beard and moustache, are lit. The face was modeled in wide strokes, reminiscent of the technique of two Viennese painters, Karl Rahl and Friedrich von Amerling, particularly because the poet’s face is lit from the side.  

Dimitrije Avramović (1858) by Anastas Jovanović (Vratsa, 1817 – Belgrade, 1899)Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Serbia

Dimitrije Avramović

In the portrait, Dimitrije Avramović is presented as a relatively young man, with short dark hair and moustaches, dressed in city clothes consisting of a white shirt with a tie, a waistcoat and a dark coat. Avramović was a distinguished Serbian artist of the 19th century, he was versatile, well-founded not only in traditional styles and techniques, but also in contemporary European artistic trends. In his lifetime, he painted numerous religious compositions, and was entrusted with the painting of the iconostasis and the wall compositions in the Cathedral Church in Belgrade. He also painted portraits, caricatures and historical compositions. Dimitrije Avramović and the painter of his portrait Anastas Jovanović had much in common in their desire to paint historical themes: both of them strove to present visually important historical events. 

Painter’s Mother (1912) by Voja Trifunović (Gardinovci, 1888 – Novi Sad, 1935)Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Serbia

Painter’s Mother

Painter’s Mother is one of Voja Trifunović earliest works. He portrayed his mother, Persida Trifunović in intimate home atmosphere. Persida is fully dedicated to the work in her hands – knitting. 

The painter’s mother is posed in profile, with the head slightly bent, dressed in a simple black dress, buttoned to the neck. As she sits at the table in semi-darkness, the light coming from the side falls only on her hands and, peripherally, on the side of her face.

The right side of the painting is better lit than the portrait itself, with a still life containing a china tea-set and half a lemon, an indication of a comfortable family home. The lightly bent head, the lowered eyes and the concentration on the knitting, speak about the character of the painter’s mother, her gentleness and reticence.  

Self-Portrait (1857/1858) by Novak Radonić (Mol, 1826 – Sremska Kamenica, 1890)Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Serbia


Novak Radonić always presented himself as calm and composed, however, behind the apparent self-control, there lurk strong emotions. The inner tension is emphasized by the contrast of light and dark, and by the dark color-scheme, achieving agreeable harmony between color and light. In the portrait, Radonić holds his head slightly bowed, his gaze wistful and contemplative.

He wears a white shirt, with a black, low-cut waistcoat and a tie knotted into a bow. His oval face is framed by a thick brown beard and short hair. The presentation of his own self as a tormentor begs the question of the inner struggle that was going on in him.  

Gypsy Woman (1914) by Danica Jovanović (Beška, 1886 – Petrovaradin, 1914)Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Serbia

Gypsy Woman

The canvas Gypsy Woman is one of the most impressive works of Danica Jovanović. The woman wears a bright yellow scarf, framing her face and separating it in a halo-like fashion from the dark background, and a white shirt, in coloristic contrast to the black hair and dark complexion. 

Very discretely, the painter gave just a suggestion of the gold earrings and a red necklace, however, the jewelry does not, as would be expected, suggest gentleness or femininity in the sitter. On the contrary, her face reflects life-long experience and the burden of years and hard work.

This Roma woman, with her pensive, worried gaze directed into the distance, testifies to the hardships of the peasant life, she exudes authenticity and the spirit of her people.  

Self-Portrait in a Tavern (1904) by Stevan Aleksić (Arad, 1876 – Modoš, 1923)Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Serbia

Self-Portrait in a Tavern

Stevan Aleksić depicts himself in a tavern, his favorite surroundings, sitting at the table on which, upon a crumpled tablecloth, there is a carafe of vine, a glass, some tobacco and a match-box, as obligatory inventory in the given setting of this dismal place rendered in minute naturalistic detail.

From the murky background loom eager faces, those of his acquaintances from Modoš, his pupils and colleagues. The painter laughs, holding a glass of vine, proposing a toast to the viewer, while a skeleton, leaning against him, plays the violin next to his ear. 

The figure of death playing the violin has the role of a moralizing messenger who warns against the futility, ephemerality, and tragic delusiveness of human life, however, judging by its and the painter’s laughter, it can be concluded that here the ephemerality is presented in a predominantly hedonistic key.  

Historical compositions

In accordance with the general ideas of historicism as the dominant feature of the European culture of the 19th century, events and people from the national past had crucial roles in the process of forming the national identity. Historical compositions, as paintings of idealized glorious past, became means of communication whose goal was to awaken national and patriotic feelings. 

The Proclamation of Dušan’s Code (1930) by Paja Jovanović (Vršac, 1859 – Vienna, 1957)Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Serbia

The Proclamation of Dušan’s Code

The painting depicts an important moment in Serbian history, the proclamation of the law codex, compiled on the order of Tsar Dušan and passed at the Council held by the Serbian nobility and clergy in Skopje in 1349. In front of the church, in the central part of the composition, stand Tsar Dušan, Tsarina Jelena and their son Uroš in their ceremonial robes and paraphernalia, after the Byzantine fashion.

They are surrounded by the noblemen and high church dignitaries, while, standing on the steps in front of them, the protovestiary Nikola Buća reads the Proclamation to the crowd gathered at the scene: Serbian aristocrats and the cavalry, who kneel on the steps and with their swords stretched out before them pay homage and swear allegiance to their Tsar.

The solemn atmosphere of the occasion is highlighted by the ceremonial clothes and costumes of the Tsar’s guards and the Serbian cavalry, with their long trumpets and banners streaming above the figures of those present at the scene.  

Serbian National Assembly (1848) by Pavle Simić (Novi Sad, 1818 – 1876)Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Serbia

Serbian National Assembly May 1, 1848

This painting entitled The Serbian National Assembly, May 1, 1848, popularly known as The May Assembly in 1848 is a visual document of the most important political event in the life of Serbian people in the Habsburg monarchy during the 19th century – the moment of the proclamation of Serbian Vojvodina.

In the middle of the composition, in the most prominent place, stands the newly-elected Patriarch Josif Rajačić, addressing the Serbs gathered around him. In the left hand he holds the original text of the imperial privileges granted to the Serbian people as an invitation and guaranty, immediately before the Great Serbian Exodus in 1690.

Below him stand the participants who spoke at the Assembly: Nikanor Grujić, the Archimandrite of the Kuveždin Monastery, holding a book in his hand, and the hieromonk Sergije Kaćanski. To the left of the Patriarch, there is a banner with the national tricolor, while on the right side, there are the Imperial and the Hungarian flag.  

The Wounded Montenegrin (1882) by Paja Jovanović (Vršac, 1859 – Vienna, 1957)Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Serbia

The Wounded Montenegrin

One of the great themes in European painting was the death of a hero. At the time of the revolutions, the anonymous hero was the embodiment of the collective bravery of the society. One of the pictures that indicates this topic is the Wounded Montenegrin. In this painting Paja Jovanović shows the moment when a wounded fighter is brought inside a farm house.

In the left side of the picture a young man with the chest stripped of clothes lies on the floor, surrounded by two men and a weeping woman, who kneels beside him. An old man, probably his father, approaches with his arms spread out, surrounded by a group of men from the village.  

The First and the Second Serbian Uprising – An Allegory (1905) by Đorđe Krstić (Kanjiža, 1851 – Belgrade, 1907)Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Serbia

The First and the Second Serbian Uprising – An Allegory –

In Đorđe Krstić painting The First and the Second Serbian Uprising – An Allegory, he associated the idea of the restoration of the Serbian sovereignty with the rising of the sun.

In the central part of the painting, above the dark clouds, in the sky where the sun is rising, there is an open book on the pages of which are presented the portraits of Karađorđe and Miloš Obrenović, the two leaders of the First and the Second Serbian uprising. 

Next to them there are the figures of two angels, one of whom is blowing the trumpet, while the other holds a torch in his hand. Below them, on the ground, there is a temple under the heavy clouds.

On both sides there are the churches in Topola, viz., Takovo, the two places where the uprisings were initiated. In front of the church in Topola, there is a symbolic figure of a girl ringing the bell and summoning people to the uprising, while holding a gun in the other hand.

In the forefront in the lower part of the painting there is an open book, the history of the Serbian nation with the fateful years 1389, 1804, 1815 inscribed on the front page, together with a globe showing the map of Serbia.

To the right of this, there is a group of children carrying books, while one of them is writing the following text on a poster: “In this storehouse we offer books and stationery for sale …”    

Guslar, Đorđe Jovanović (Novi Sad, 1861 – Belgrade, 1953), 1889, From the collection of: Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Serbia
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The sculpture Guslar (The Gusle Player) is the work of Đorđe Jovanović. The sculpture represents a sitting figure of a gusle player dressed in the national costume with the instrument (gusle) resting on his left knee. He holds the gusle with his left hand, and the bow in his right hand. The figure of a gusle player has an important place in the visual arts of the 19th century. The development of Serbian national identity during the 19th century strongly relied on the national epic poetry. As a collective heritage of the Serbian people, it is symbolically expressed in the figure of the gusle player. As an archetypal embodiment of the national creative genius, the gusle player was generally accepted as a symbol, elaborated and popularized by numerous artists.  

Religious compositions

A big part of Serbian national heritage presents religious art, which developed thanks to the Serbian National Church, who had a big role as a great patron of art from medieval times until the end of 19th century. Frescoes, icon paintings and religious oil paintings depict the biblical history with special representations of Serbian orthodox events and people in different artistic styles, from byzantine, zograf, braque to classicism and academism.  

Jews by the Waters of Babylon (1844) by Živko Petrović (Zemun, 1806–1868)Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Serbia

Jews by the Waters of Babylon

In the foreground a group of banished Israeli men and women sit under two bare willow trees. The central figure is a middle-aged man with long dark hair, mustachios and beard who sits on a stone, resting his hands and the head on the right leg bent in the knee. He is the symbol of an ideal biblical hero whose posture suggests immediate action and firm belief in the deliverance from slavery. To the right of him is the figure of a mother who in desperation succumbs to hopelessness. To the sides of the two central figures, there is a girl, a symbol of youth, weeping, and on the other side, as an antithesis, an old men, symbol of ephemerality. Behind them, bellow the willow trees, there appears the silhouette of another male figure, sitting with his back turned towards the viewer, with a hood on his head, facing Babylon, visible across the river. Beside the central male figure there is a piece of stone which can symbolically be connected to the last line in the Psalm 137: “Happy is the one who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks.”  

The Virgin of Bođani (1758) by Zaharija Orfelin (Vukovar, 1726 – Novi Sad, 1785)Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Serbia

The Virgin of Bođani

The graphic representation of The Virgin of Bođani, attributed to Zaharija Orfelin, is an early print with the “truthful appearance” of the miracle-working icon. The central part of the composition consists of the icon of The Virgin of Bođani, belonging to the Hodegetria type. The icon is situated in a lavish baroque architectural setting indicating that the commissioners of the copperplate engraving were well acquainted with the practice of placing the miracle-working icons onto baroque tabernacles with canopies. On the sides, there are two pilasters and two columns, supporting the canopy with a crown and a drapery held by two angels. Both pilasters have three cartouches, each with Old Testament Marian emblems, containing the burning bush, the tower and the sprouting scepter on the left side and the ladder, the menorah and a temple model on the right.  

Saint Demetrius (1737) by Hristofor Žefarović (Dojran, end of 17th c. – Moscow, 1753)Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Serbia

Saint Demetrius

In this icon, attributed to Hristofor Žefarović, St. Demetrius is pressented as a triumphant saint on a prancing red horse, probably based on the accounts in Wonders of St. Demetrius of Salonika, where he is described as a ‘handsomely dressed horseman on a fiery horse’. He is dressed in military clothes: red trousers, light brown tunic with a golden girdle and blue cape. His right arm is raised, holding a spear with which to stab his enemy – the Bulgarian Tsar Kaloyan, who was murdered during the siege of Thessaloniki. The king is depicted lying on the ground under the hoofs of St. Demetrius’ horse, with a broken spear in his left hand and a short sabre in the left. In the background, stands the fortress of Thessaloniki, presented as a donjon with a wooden oriel, as a recognizable marker of Balkan architecture.  

The Immaculate Conception (1780) by Jovan Isajlović Stariji (Irig, ca. 1740 – Dalj, 1807)Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Serbia

The Immaculate Conception

The image of the Immaculate Conception was interpreted through the symbolic meaning of its elements: the crescent under her feet is the symbol of earth, sin and death, over which the Virgin triumphs. The crown consisting of twelve stars, on the other hand, symbolizes the Virgin’s eternal celestial virtues and merits. The first star in the crown is the Morning Star, because the Virgin, like the Morning Star, announces the breaking of the new day, the day of redemption. Also, she is thought of as the New Eve, the one who gained victory over sins.  

Saint Stefan Štiljanović (1764) by Stefan Tenecki (Lipova (?), ca. 1720 – Abrud, 1798)Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Serbia

Saint Stefan Štiljanović, Saint Monk Simeon Srpski, Saint Serbian Archbishops Sava and Arsenije 

The icon is the work of Stefan Tenecki. Saint Stefan Štiljanović is presented dressed as a monarch because he was remembered as the last Serbian despot who lived in the sixteenth century. Although there is no historical confirmation that Štiljanović was indeed the last Serbian ruler, the monks of the Monastery of Šišatovac, where the relics of this saint are kept, have given him the necessary legitimacy. On the icon next to him stands Saint Simeon, dressed as a monk, whose name was Stefan Nemanja before he took Holy Orders. Next to him, in archbishop’s vestments, stand Saint Sava, the first Serbian archbishop, son of Stefan Nemanja and founder of the Serbian Orthodox church and Saint Arsenije, his disciple and follower.       

The Order of Saint Sava, II Degree (1985) by UnknownMinistry of Culture of the Republic of Serbia

The Order of Saint Sava, II Degree

The Order of St. Sava was created by the Serbian Patriarch German in 1985, on the occasion of the 800th anniversary of the birth of St. Sava. The order has three degrees, distinguished by their colors, the first one being white, the second red and the third blue. The Holy Synod of Bishops was responsible for the manufacturing of the medals and the writing of the Award Decree. The medal of the Order of St. Sava was minted already for the first regular session of the Holy Synod of Bishops the next year. All Serbian Patriarchs are the recipients of the Order of St. Sava of the highest degree and since 1986 more than 120 medals have been given to numerous distinguished persons and institutions, among which the Gallery of Matica Srpska takes its proud place.  

Credits: Story

Gallery of Matica Srpska

The narration was provided by  Snežana Misić - museum advisor, art historian, Jelena Ognjanović - curator, art historian and Miroslava Žarkov - curator, art historian.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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