Jan Matejko was born in 1838, in Kraków was a Polish painter known for paintings of notable historical Polish political and military events. His most famous works include oil on canvas paintings of numerous battles and court scenes, and a gallery of Polish kings. He is counted among the most famous Polish painters.
Almost everyone in Poland is, in a sense, brought up on Matejko's large historical paintings. Disseminated in thousands of reproductions, they have, for generations, helped the young and some not so young visualize salient events in the history of the nation. To understand the genesis of such historical painting it should be recalled that at the time in the 19th century when Matejko created these canvases, the Polish lands were partitioned between Russia, Prussia, which morphed into Germany, and Austria. In the lands occupied by Russia and Germany, strenuous efforts were made by the occupying powers to stamp out Polishness. The use of the Polish language was forbidden in schools. Also to hinder transmission of knowledge about the country's proud history, censorship existed that effectively banned publication of textbooks and the like that dealt with the subject. In these circumstances, historical paintings which could be used as a way of transmitting such knowledge assumed an importance and relevance otherwise seldom accorded to them. Matejko, a fervent Polish patriot, devoted much of his talent to this cause.