Author: Smuglewicz Lukasz, 1709 - 1780
Created: 1760s or 1770s.
Material/technique: oil on canvas.
Dimensions: 125x76 cm.
St Roch is a pilgrim saint of French origin who lived in the thirteenth–fourteenth centuries and who dedicated his life to nursing people suffering from the plague. He was born at the time of the Black Death into a pious family of rich and influential traders that took care of the poor. Roch studied medicine. On his deathbed his father asked his fifteen-year-old son four things: serve all those who needed his help, not to abandon God, to inherit his status and assets, and to take care of people ill with the plague. When his mother died, Roch became a begging pilgrim and treated people not only using his knowledge of medicine, but also with the sign of the Holy Cross. Once he heard an angel saying to him in a dream that he would have to face an illness and when he woke up he found a wound above his left knee. Trying to avoid any danger to others, he left the hospital and settled in a cave in a forest. A dog provided him with bread. When he recovered, he travelled home, but was stopped and accused of spying and was imprisoned. He spent several years in prison.
St Roch is considered the patron saint of those suffering epidemic diseases. His attributes are a stick and a bag. He is also depicted with a plague wound on his leg and an accompanying dog. In Lithuania the cult of St Roch strengthened in 1713 after the establishment of the brotherhood of St Roch in Kražiai.
Reference: "The Lithuanian art collection of Jaunius Gumbis". Museum and Collector - 6. Vilnius: National Museum of Lithuania, 2016, P. 212.
The painter ŁUKASZ SMUGLEWICZ (1709–1780), who is better known in Lithuania as the father of the artist Franciszek, was born in Žemaitija, but lived in Warsaw. He studied painting under the Late Baroque master Szymon Czechowicz, and in the middle of the 18th century they established the first private painting school in Warsaw together. Lukasz Smuglewicz was highly respected by his contemporaries, and was appointed court painter to the king. The talented artist received many prestigious commissions: he decorated the mansions of the nobility with paintings, and produced a number of works for churches in Poland. In his paintings and frescoes, features of Late Baroque intertwine with Rococo, and features of Rococo intertwine with Classicism. The picture of the Medieval pilgrim and healer St Roch (ca 1293–1327) is a good example of a religious picture in which the saint is shown not only with all his usual attributes (an angel guarding him on his pilgrimages, his faithful dog, a pilgrim’s staff, a flask, and clothes decorated with a cockle-shell, symbolising pilgrimage), but also with attributes that emphasise his patronage according to ecclesiastical tradition, protection from the plague. As is customary, the saint’s leg is bare up to the thigh, where the first indications of plague occur. Sick and dying people are depicted on the left of the composition, while an angel is holding a plaque with the Latin inscription PATRONUS a PESTE (patron of those suffering from the plague). Plagues raged in Poland and Lithuania several times, but took the largest number of lives in the early 18th century, and made the cult of St Roch popular.
Reference: Art album "Heaven and Beyond"; compiler D. Vasiliunienė, authors D. Vasiliunienė and S. Urbonienė. Vilnius, VALIUNAS ELLEX, 2016. P. 56.
Exhibitions: Exhibition of the Fine Arts Collection of Edmundas Armoška "Outcrops of Lithuanian Art 16th–21th Centuries" 2008 July 3 - August 31, Lithuanian Art Museum, Vilnius.
Published: "The Lithuanian art collection of Jaunius Gumbis". Museum and Collector - 6. Vilnius: National Museum of Lithuania, 2016, P. 213; "Outcrops of Lithuanian Art 16th–21th Centuries", Vilnius Exhibition of the Fine Arts Collection of Edmundas Armoška, Vilnius: Lithuanian Art Museum, 2008 Kat. No. II, 62, P. 104; Art album "Heaven and Beyond"; compiler D. Vasiliunienė, authors D. Vasiliunienė and S. Urbonienė. Vilnius, VALIUNAS ELLEX, 2016, P.56.