Józef Peszka
Portrait of Teofila Radziwiłł as Hebe, 1802-1806
Purchased in 1924

material: oil on canvas

dimensions: 44 x 58 cm

description: According to the traditional 18th century iconography, Hebe was depicted against a background of clouds giving drink to the eagle of Zeus from a jug. When commissioned to paint Teofila Radziwiłł as Hebe, Józef Peszka did portray her with a goblet and an eagle; however, instead of the clouds, he painted trees and a vast landscape with a huge mountain belching fire and smoke, certainly Olympus, with flashes of lightning, the symbol of Zeus’s anger. Nevertheless, the sitter is shown with one of her breasts uncovered. The woman represented in the painting was one of the most beautiful ladies and most interesting personalities of the early 19th century. She got married and divorced three times, having several love affairs in the meantime. It seems that both the sitter and the painter were more interested in emphasizing the youthful beauty of the woman whose looks were comparable with those of the ancient goddess than in the accurate rendering of the realities of the mythological story. Portraying the Polish aristocrat as Hebe was a good excuse for the painter to show Teofila in a frivolous dress and slightly uncover her well-known charms. Barbara Ciciora

exposition: The Gallery of 19th Century Polish Art in Sukiennice,
The Cloth Hall, 1, Main Market Square

key: Enlightenment >>>

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