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Liberator of the Vilnius Castles. Portrait of Boguslaw Radziwill

16 March–10 September 2021

The National Museum – Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania is proud to present an exclusive portrait of the Equerry of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and Prussian regent, Prince Boguslaw Radziwill, created by the famous Flemish artist, Dutch Golden Age painter Willem van Honthorst (1594–1666). This portrait of Boguslaw Radziwill, one of whose notable achievements was the liberation of the Vilnius castles from Muscovite control in the mid-17th century, is on loan from the museum's dear friend and patron of numerous projects, the philanthropist and history fan, Prince Maciej Radziwiłł, who recently acquired the work from a private collection. Taking into account the fact that iconography depicting Boguslaw Radziwill is truly sparse – barely a few portraits and several graphic art works exist – this painting being presented to the public for the first time is nonething less than a sensational event that is sure to enrich iconographic research into the Radziwill family's iconography, whilst giving visitors to the National Museum – Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania the exclusive opportunity to be the first to admire the painting in Vilnius.

The portrait was most likely painted during one of Boguslaw Radziwill's early journeys to the Netherlands and France. As the figure we see in the painting is not so young, the work was most probably created at the end of 1650, at the court of the Elector of Brandenburg in Berlin where the painter Willem van Honthorst was working at the time. The Lithuanian magnate probably commissioned the portrait but could not pay the entire sum due to a break in financing from his domains in Lithuania, and thus the work was sold. The subsequent travels of the portrait led it to Scotland, from where it eventually found its way to a London antique dealership. Almost 400 years down the road, the portrait has finally come home... to Maciej Radziwiłł.

Boguslaw Radziwill (1620–1669) was a prince, the son of the Vilnius Castellan Janusz Radziwill (1579–1620) and Elisabeth Sophia, the daughter of the  Prince-elector of Brandenburg and the Kurfürst of the Holy Roman Empire, John George Hohenzollern. When his father died, Boguslaw came under the custody of his uncle, the Grand Hetman of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and Vilnius Palatine, Prince Krzysztof Radziwill (1585–1640). Together with his cousin, Janusz Radziwill (1612–1655), they undertook predominantly warfare related studies in Kėdainiai, participated in the war campaign against the Swedes in Livonia, continued his studies in Vilnius, Gröningen, Utrecht, Paris and London. Boguslaw was interested in fortification architecture and participated in the Catholic and Protestant struggles in the Netherlands. A supporter of the Reformation, he was a patron of the Lithuanian Evangelical Reformers, was viewed as a European Protestant leader and was also involved in the courts of Catholic rulers. He served as Standard-bearer of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania in 1638–1646, and Equerry from 1646. In 1654 he was nominated as the Palatine of Polotsk – he did not take up this appointment as the Muscovite intervention in Lithuania began at this time, and Polotsk was captured by Russian units.

Boguslaw Radziwill participated in attempts at suppressing the Cossack uprising from 1648, he was appointed as the General of the Guard of the Commonwealth's ruler, John Casimir Vasa (1648–1668), participating in military operations in 1651 where he earned acclaim as a military unit organiser and commander. He and his cousin, the Grand Hetman of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and Vilnius Palatine Janusz Radziwill, tried to organise opposition to the intervention of Moscow and Sweden in 1654–1655.

When enemy armies had occupied almost the whole Grand Duchy of Lithuania, he searched for a solution to this difficult situation. Boguslaw and his cousin Janusz Radziwill took the side of the Charles X Gustav of Sweden, initiating the signing of the so-called Union of Kėdainiai that cancelled Lithuania's state-related affairs with Poland and foresaw the establishment of analogous relations with Sweden – this was done in the hope of receiving Sweden's assistance in the fight against Moscow. As supporters of the agreement with Sweden, when his cousin Janusz Radziwill died and the war started to turn in favour of the Commonwealth's ruler John Casimir Vasa and his supporters, Boguslaw was forced to flee to Prussia and take part in the war activity of Swedish and Prussian units against the Commonwealth's army. Despite receiving an amnesty from the King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania John Casimir Vasa at the end of the war, from 1656 Boguslaw was in the service of his relative, the Elector of Brandenburg Frederick William, known as the Great Elector, and was not loyal to either the Commonwealth or its ruler. One year later he was appointed as the regent of the Duchy of Prussia, basically its factual governor (Statthalter), and participated in war activity against the Swedes. Despite this, Boguslaw did not ignore state affairs in the Commonwealth and frequently visited Lithuania. At the end of 1661, he set out with almost one thousand of his personal cavalry on an operation to liberate the Vilnius castles and the Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania from its occupants, the Muscovite army. Boguslaw prepared raid plans and organised a successful dramatisation scaring one of the Russian units, which eventually led to the Muscovites capitulation and the beheading of their leader, Prince Daniil Misheckii.

Boguslaw's marriage to Anna Maria, the daughter of Janusz Radziwill, in 1665 meant the entire domains and property of the Biržai-Dubingiai Radziwills were now concentrated in his hands. He thus became one of the wealthiest magnates in the Commonwealth and aspired to claim the throne of King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania following the abdication of John Casimir Vasa in 1668. Boguslaw was a hot-headed character, earning renown across Europe as fan of dueling, an educated and rather astute politician, a talented military commander. However, during the mid-17th century's Deluge period, the conditions were not suited for these admirable attributes to be revealed in the Commonwealth, and Boguslaw found himself in the service of foreign rulers. He had a taste for luxury and had modernised the Tauragė Castle, accumulated an archive and art works at the Slutsk Castle, and had even accommodated the royal Spanish envoy, Count Juan de Solre, at his Vilnius residence in 1636. Boguslaw Radziwill wrote a book in 1666 that was released in 1840 under the title Autobiography. He was buried at the Königsberg Cathedral, in the crypt of the Brandenburg electors and Prussian dukes as a relative of the Hohenzollern dynasty. The magnate's monument was recently reconstructed. Boguslaw Radziwill was the last male representative of the Dubingiai-Biržai branch. He and his wife Anna Maria had a daughter Ludwika Karolina, who soon lost both of her parents and came under the custody of her relatives from the Hohenzollern family and the Radziwills.

Exhibition organisers
National Museum – Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania
Prince Maciej Radziwiłł

Sponsors