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The Court Jester Stanczyk (1480-1560) Receives News of the Loss of Smolensk (1514), During a Ball at Queen Bona's Court

Thomas B. Cole, MD, MPH
JAMA. 2009;302(15):1627. doi:10.1001/jama.2009.1372.
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In 1862, when The Court Jester Stanczyk (1480-1560) Receives News of the Loss of Smolensk (1514), During a Ball at Queen Bona's Court (cover) was painted, the nation of Poland was just a memory. For the past 67 years the Polish lands had been partitioned between Russia, Prussia, and Austria, but the Polish people still resented foreign rule, and their anger was about to boil over. Farm workers and students, inspired by the writings of Karl Marx, Mikhail Bakunin, and Giuseppe Garibaldi, began to participate in demonstrations. In response, martial law was imposed and public gatherings were banned. In 1863 young Poles protested conscription into the Russian army, and the protests became an uprising that was quickly put down. The leaders of the revolt were hanged and thousands of their supporters were transported to Siberia. The occupying powers attempted to suppress Polish culture by prohibiting the use of the Polish language in schools and censoring textbooks on Polish history. Russian became the official language of the country. Politically, Poland was dead, and culturally, it was dying. To reawaken a sense of national identity, Polish writers and artists adopted a theme of patriotism, and the most prominent of the artists was Jan Matejko (1838-1893).

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Jan Matejko (1838-1893), The Court Jester Stanczyk (1480-1560) Receives News of the Loss of Smolensk (1514), During a Ball at Queen Bona's Court, 1862, Polish. Oil on canvas. 88×120 cm. Courtesy of the National Museum (http://www.ddg.art.pl/nm/), Warsaw, Poland. Photo credit: Erich Lessing/Art Resource, New York, New York.

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