Vilnius Botanical Garden
 Vilnius Botanical Garden

Vilnius Botanical Garden

Author: Januszkiewicz Marcelli , 1806 - 1859

Created:  around 1830 .

Material / technique: paper, pastel.

Dimensions: 18,5x29 cm.

Unclipped, inscription lower right (in silver pencil, difficult to read): Миловидов.

The artist Marcelis Januševičius (1805-after 1864) is well-known to those interested in the history of Lithuanian 19th-century art: his works have been published in various publications on the legacy of the Vilnius School of Art, and key facts of his life can be found in dictionaries of Lithuanian and Polish artists. However, his artistic legacy, scattered in the collections of various countries, is only just beginning to be explored in depth. These studies are hampered by the fact that many of his works, which were taken to Russia in the 19th century, are not easily accessible to scholars.

The watercolour Vilnius Botanical Garden, which is in private collections, is a very characteristic work of the artist, both in terms of the motif it depicts and in terms of the pictorial style. Although the watercolour is not signed, it can be attributed on the basis of historical data and an analysis of stylistic features. His various works depict trees in a very similar way, with analogous paintings of cloudy, often glowing skies.

Like his father Martynas (Marcelis) Januševičius, M. Januševičius was a pupil of the Vilnius School of Art, from 1819 he studied painting and drawing under Professor Jonas Rustemas, and from 1825-1826 he attended parallel lectures in physics, chemistry, mineralogy, botany and zoology. However, the fine arts were his main field of study, from which he graduated in 1828 with the degree of candidate of arts. In the history of Lithuanian art, M. Januševičius is primarily known as a documenter of Vilnius architecture and art monuments. The series of lithographs he conceived, entitled "Ancient Monuments of Vilnius City", is in fact considered to be the precursor of J.K. Vilčinskis' "Vilnius Album". In 1837, a subscription to M. Januševičius's album was published, announcing that the cycle would be the culmination of the artist's several years of work on the study, drawing and description of the monuments of Vilnius. The 40-sheet album was to consist of views of Vilnius churches and palaces, drawings of tombstones, famous paintings and other monuments of art and history, as well as general views of Vilnius from the Three Crosses, the Bekes and the Castle Mountains. For unknown reasons, such an album of lithographs was never published, but Januševičius continued to record ancient monuments in watercolour. His work was greatly influenced by the commissions and patronage of Eustachius Tiškevičius. Although Januševičius was not a member of the Archaeological Commission, he worked closely with the Museum of Antiquities and Eustachius Tiškevičius. It is no coincidence that it was M. Januševičius who was commissioned to immortalise the grand opening of the Museum of Antiquities. The documentary nature of Januševičius' drawings and watercolours is a specific feature of his work, indicating that at least some of them were intended for the illustration of scientific historical or archaeological works. A large collection of drawings and watercolours by Janusiewicz (and his son Stanislaw) was kept in Vilnius by Adam Honoris Kirkoras and his wife (now in the National Museum in Warsaw). Another bundle of Januševičius's works were in the collection of Eustachius Tiškevičius, which went to the collections of the Museum of Antiquities in Vilnius, and after the museum was dissolved in 1865 a large part of the collection was taken to the Rumyantsev Museum in Moscow. Some of Januševičius's works remained in Vilnius and were kept in the collections of the Public Library. Aleksandr Milovidov was the keeper of the museum collections at this library. It is this name that appears on the watercolour under discussion here, and probably marks the ownership of the work. It is difficult to say when and under what circumstances the watercolour might have come into Milovidov's collection, as there is no record of Janushevich's life after 1864. The watercolour may have been acquired from members of his family or other citizens of Vilnius, or it may have been among the uninventoried works in the library.  

The time of the watercolour's creation can be determined by comparing it with other works by Vilnius artists depicting the same cityscape. The Vilnius Botanical Garden is a popular and favourite motif in 19th century Vilnius iconography. The garden, located in the centre of the capital on the territory of the castles, is connected both with the history of the University and with the commemoration of a much older history, that of the reconquest of Lithuania by the princes. The hill of crosses in the distance recalls the beginning of Lithuania's history as a Christian state, marked by the martyrdom of the Franciscan monks, while the greenhouses in the foreground on the left reminded the city's old inhabitants not only of Professor Jundzil, but also of the demolished palace of the Grand Dukes. A. H. Kirkor wrote in his "Walks in Vilnius": "It is a fascinating place! The Vilnelė River washes it in a circle, and behind it are the magnificent mountains of the Three Crosses, the Castle and, a little further on, the Bekes Mountain. A beautiful bridge over the Vilnelė leads to the mountains. Anyone who has visited them, especially at sunrise, and admired the magical views from them, will understand how precious and charming they are to every Vilna resident. On summer evenings, music plays in the garden, crowds of people flood the streets, and the tired find rest under the giant poplar trees, planted by Jundzil's own hand, under which he used to sit in his old age, after the closure of the university. The greenhouses of the Botanical Gardens are also national monuments. At the beginning of this century, the governor of Vilnius, Jan Friesel, gave 40,000 wide ancient bricks from the Lower Castle, which had been dismantled in 1797, for their construction, and they were used to build the deep foundations of the greenhouse and the walls up to half its height" (Kirkor Adam Honory, Przechadzki po Wilnie i jego okolicach (Przechadzki po Wilnie i jego okolicach), Wilno 1856).

The watercolour by M. Januševičius is most similar in composition to the lithograph by Motiejus Pšibilskis, based on a drawing by Karolis Račinskis. The works are not identical, but their interrelation is highly probable. Interestingly, it was in that year that Račinskis had published a subscription of 16 lithographed images of Vilnius, possibly inspiring M. Januševičius, who a few years later attempted a similar project (Dr. (hp) Rūta Janonienė).