The origin of the miraculous painting of Our Lady in Krekenava Church: iconographic sources and their contexts

  • Regimanta Stankevičienė
Keywords: derivations of the miraculous images of Our Lady, Our Lady of Krekenava, Santa Maria Maggiore (Santa Maria ad Nives, Salus Populi Romani), Santa Maria del Popolo, Our Lady of Częstochowa, Our Lady of Zarasai, Our Lady of Tytuvėnai, Nicolao Povetrius


The article presents a high altar painting of “Our Lady with the Child” in the Krekenava Basilica of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary (Our Lady of Krekenava; pine, canvas, oil; size: 172 × 111 cm). Parsons of Krekenava Church were Samogitian archdeacons. The picture was donated by Nicolao Povetrius (Mikalojus Povetrijus), a parson of the church in 1622–1634. It was announced that he brought the picture from Rome. However, the fabrics and artistic features of the painting show that it was created by a Lithuanian painter instead. Iconographic analysis suggests that the painting was painted on the basis of three old prototypes related to St. Luke authorship. These are icons from two very famous churches of Rome (S. Maria Maggiore (Salus Populi Romani) from the Basilica of the same title and S. Maria del Popolo from the church of the same title) and one from Poland and Lithuania, which is highly respected (Our Lady of Częstochowa from Jasna Góra Pauline Monastery Basilica). It was noticed that from the end of the 16th century, the copies of S. Maria Maggiore icon were created on the basis of the original image, e.g. a Jesuitic copy of 1569, which transferred the original painting into the image of the modern times (at present, in S. Andrea al Quirinale monastery). Such copies very quickly spread in Lithuania, where representations of Our Lady of Częstochowa became more and more popular. The derivations of the icon of S. Maria del Popolo were also created. This is testified by the altar painting of the Zarasai Parish Church (until 1610). The combination of several important aspects of origin (St. Luke authorship), cult and iconography of miraculous images of Our Lady in one painting are considered to be an aspiration to create the most suitable ideal image of Our Lady. Applying this method by combining the iconography of S. Maria Maggiore and Our Lady of Częstochowa, a high altar painting of Our Lady of Tytuvėnai Church was created at the same period and benefited by Vilnius Bishop Eustachy Wołłowicz (Eustachijus Valavičius). Krekenava and Tytuvėnai paintings are among the earliest images of the miraculous derivations of Our Lady in Lithuania. The iconography taken from prototypes was supplemented by crowns. The derivation of venerable archaic images of Our Lady was a process of re-evaluation and innovative expose, which took place in the post-Tridentine Church. The process was launched in Rome, and customers of the Krekenava image and other mentioned paintings of Our Lady in Lithuania were high or higher Catholic priests who studied or visited Rome and other Italian cities for other purposes. It is likely that they visited famous paintings and brought their copies. The paintings of Krekenava and Tytuvėnai because of oil painting technique and style are examples of the New Times painting, which was called “Latin” in Lithuania. They have archaic features taken from the prototypes. However, the origin of prototypes dissociates them from the Eastern Orthodox tradition of sacral paintings of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, to which they are often wrongly attributed. Only wood panels and selection of symbolic gold plating background (golden colour in the Krekenava image) testifies to the impact of the latter tradition.
Visual Art