A PORTRAIT OF WLADYSLAW III WARNENCZYK JAGIELLO / 2014
about the painting above:
year: 2014, Berkeley, California, USA
technique / medium: acrilic colours and digital print on canvas
dimensions: (in cm): 105 / 72,5 cm.
This painting deals with the legend about the battle in 1444 between the armies of the Polish teenage-king Vladislav III Varnenchik and the Turkish sultan Murad II Kodja (The last crusade) and which battle can be regarded as a collision of those two worlds: East and West, but also as political and cultural interaction between them. Vladislav Varnenchik, aka: Władysław III of Varna is known in Hungarian as I. Ulászló; in Polish as Władysław III Warneńczyk; in Slovak as Vladislav I; in Czech as Vladislav Varnenčík; in Bulgarian as Vladislav III Yagelo Varnenchik (Владислав III Ягело Варненчик); in Lithuanian as Vladislovas III; in Croatian as Vladislav I. Jagelović. Vladislav by God's grace king of Poland, Hungary, Dalmatia, Croatia, and lands of Kraków, Sandomierz, Sieradz, Łęczyca, Kuyavia, Great Duke of Lithuania, lord and heir of Pomerania and Ruthenia.
The painting deals with the legend for king VLADISLAV III VARNECHIK, who made the last crusade 1443-44 against Ottoman Empire, leading united army (It consists mainly of Polish, Hungarians (led by János Hunyadi) and Czechs knights, but also includes, Germans, Croats, Bulgarians (led by Konstantin Fruzhin, one of the pretenders for the Bulgarian throne at that time), Vlachos, Lithuanians, Serbs and Bosnians (leaded by Yura (George) Branković, baron of Kosovo), Ruteni, Armenians and papal knights) and in 1444 was killed by the Turks in a battle outside the VARNA fortress. Latter, his head, placed in a jar full of honey, was delivered to the Turkish sultan Murad II Kodja. Nowadays, on the place of the battle there is a mausoleum and a park, dedicated to him. This is in short the official version, but there is another story, which tells that he being a homosexual (historically proven), he was not very well accepted by his own knights and noblemen in Poland and they forced him to resign from the throne and for this purpose, they committed his fake death. They replaced him with somebody else and as a result of it that other man fell down killed in the battle. Actually, the young king (the battle was only few days after he had celebrated his 20-year anniversary) and his man-lover took a romantic journey to the Island of Madeira, where they spent the rest of their lives. Nowadays, king VLADISLAV III is the symbol of Polish gender movement.
According to a Portuguese legend Vladislav survived the Battle of Varna (although the Turks claimed to have his head, his body in royal armor was never found) and then journeyed in secrecy to the Holy Land. He became a knight of Saint Catharine of Mount Sinai and then he settled on Madeira. King Alfonso V of Portugal granted him the lands in Cabo Girão district of the Madeira Islands, rent-free for the rest of his life. He was known there as Henrique Alemão (Henry the German) and married Senhorinha Anes, who gave him two sons. He established a church of Saint Catherine and Saint Mary Magdalene in Madalena do Mar (1471).
According to the legend, he felt his defeat at Varna was a warning sign from God (since he declared war on a false pretext, violating the truce with the Ottoman Turks). Thus, he wandered as a pilgrim, seeking forgiveness, which he found in Jerusalem. For the rest of his life he would deny his royal identity. A delegation of Polish monks went to Madeira to question him and certified he was in fact the long lost king, now living in secrecy. He declined their suggestion to ascend the Polish throne again.
Vladislav III is the hero of many works from the circle of European culture. For example, he was depicted in a painting as Saint Joachim meeting Saint Anne at the Golden Gate on a painting by Master of the Adoration of Machico (Mestre da Adoração de Machico) in the beginning of the 16th century. He’s a hero of Lope de Vega drama and Józef Kraszewski’s novel. Also Jan Matejko’s two paintings.
These were historical facts.
In Bulgaria and other post-socialistic countries, the Battle of Varna is a symbol of a joint fight of Christian nations of CentralEastern Europe and the Balkans against the Ottoman Empire, without taking into account the fact when the king Vladislav’s army captured Shumen fortress on his birthday few days before the battle of Varna, his knights killed all the Turkish soldiers as well as all the civil population of Shumen no matter Turks (Muslims) or Bulgarians (Christians), which is without any doubt barbarian act. This last crusade was directed against the Ottoman Empire, which was threatening Europe. It was an unsuccessful political act and war defeat and additionally it violated peace treaty. On the other hand, in Turkey, Vladislav Varnenchik is a symbol of defeated Christian enemy; he was a crusade leader whose head was carried in a jar filled with honey around towns and villages of the Ottoman Empire as a symbol of bad Christianity (also a barbarian act).
Perhaps, Varnenchik’s legend invalidates these two symbols. The battle was lost but the king saved his life – an example how men in power manipulate the ordinary people. His head in honey triumphantly was shown; yet, that head was blond haired, while Vladislav was dark haired – an example about imperial propaganda. He resigned from the throne in the name of love – an example about the power of love and about it that the happiness is not in the money and power, but in love.
The painting above has been created during the time of 27-th CEC ArtsLink Fellowship Award Residency Programme at Kala Art Institute, Berkeley, CA, USA.