The Things of Warsaw – core exhibition / Room of Medals

Adam Mickiewicz was indeed a great poet. Medal-worthy!

The image of Adam Mickiewicz was a popular motif in medallic art even at the time when he was still alive. There were numerous occasions for depicting the poet – anniversaries of his birth, and later also of his death, and, most significantly, the day of 4 July 1890, when his ashes were brought from the Montmercy cemetery near Paris to the Wawel Castle, and the 100th anniversary of his birth in 1898.

Some of the portraits were inspired by the medallion designed in 1829 by French sculptor David d’Angers (1788–1856). Others made reference to the sumptuous medallion modelled in 1887 by Leopold Steinmann (1848–1897), a Polish artist working for the Imperial Mint in Petersburg. Others depicted Mickiewicz as seen on the statues erected in his honour, for example the sculpture by Teodor Rygier (1841–1913) unveiled in 1898 in Kraków, or the statue by Cyprian Godebski (1835–1909) in Warsaw.

Out of all the Mickiewicz-themed medallions in the collection of the Museum, an outstanding one is the plaquette designed by a long-time art director of the National Mint in Warsaw, sculptor Józef Aumiller (1892–1963). He was the author of a number of portrait plaquettes depicting famous representatives of the world of politics, culture, and science, released in the years 1925–1939 in forty thematic editions. Aumiller also designed many portrait medals released independently. The vast majority of his works, based on official portraits, have sober composition, flat modelling, and clearly marked outlines of the design.

The profile of Adam Mickiewicz was designed in a different style. It was created in the period of Aumiller’s temporary fascination with Fauvism and post-Cubism. The artist disposed of all non-essential and incidental aspects of representing shapes, creating a geometric, minimalist synthesis of a portrait. The design gives off the air of tranquillity and dignity, creating an aesthetically impressive piece.