Portrait of Józef Piłsudski by Józef Mehoffer

The description below has been written by Róża Książek-Czerwińska of the JU Museum.
The tactile graphics have been executed by Lech Kolasiński, a painting artist. Thanks to graphic adaptations, persons who are blind or partially sighted have an opportunity to become familiar with the exhibit through touch. Read by Jakub Kosiniak.


Cracow, 1921, oil, cardboard, 67 cm x 51 cm

The painting shows Józef Piłsudski (1867-1935), an activist of the Polish Socialist Party, Chief of State, Chief Commander, First Marshal of Poland, Prime Minister, and Minister of Military Affairs.
In this portrait, Józef Piłsudski is sitting in a high armchair, with his legs crossed and the hands resting in his lap, the Marshal is presented almost en face, slightly leaning his head to the right. He put his right hand with a signet ring on the little finger on a simple peaked soldier’s cap, his legendary Maciejówka, thus almost entirely obliterating the left hand. The figure of Piłsudski and the back of the armchair where he is sitting are the only aspect of this composition which, although muted in terms of colour, is clearly distinct against a dark uniform background. The man shown in the portrait can be seen down to his knees.
Piłsudski is presented in full uniform, wearing a grey-light blue single-breasted army jacket and trousers of the same colour. The jacket, fastened with buttons – here covered by a broad light-blue velvet sash – has four pockets, two upper ones with box pleats and flaps, also fastened with buttons, and two lower ones, partly covered by the jacket sleeves and a broad leather army belt with a large metal buckle.
The Marshal’s neck is surrounded by a tall upright collar hemmed with dark-blue velvet. The collar features wavy lines denoting his general’s rank sewn with a silver thread, just like on the sleeves, from under which white shirt cuffs can be seen, and on the epaulettes. They are additionally ornamented with eagles known from Poland’s coat of arms embroidered on both sides above the wavy lines and crossed gold marshal’s maces beneath them. From the right epaulette of the jacket flows a double silver rank cord, fastened under a light-blue sash and above the upper left jacket pocket medals can be seen: Virtuti Militari on a dark-blue ribbon, Polonia Restituta on a white-and-red one, while at extreme left an outline of an officer’s distinction ‘Umbrella’. Below, an Order of the White Eagle, the largest of all, is pinned directly to the jacket pocket.

With his soldier’s back upright, the Marshal is looking somewhere far ahead with concern palpable in his dark squinty eyes. His face is one of a man of mature age, experienced, decisive and tough. Under his high forehead is a straight narrow nose with flaring nostrils. The mouth is almost obliterated by his falling dark and dense moustache. Above the Marshal’s eyes are ruffled bushy eyebrows coming together over the nose. Combed back, his dark hair reveals the leader’s broad and high forehead. Well formed, the chin suggests a man of iron will. The left ear is small and adheres to the skull. The Marshal’s swarthy complexion belongs to a soldier who spends most of his time outside.
Elegant and padded with pink silk, Piłsudski’s armchair is visible only in its upper section, the back fitted into a sculpted gilded frame which also features white elements in its lower part. Its gilded section makes an arc crowned on both sides with sculpted and also gilded decorative features. A golden upholstery cord running along the armchair frame lends splendour to the entire scene.

Painted  by Józef Mehoffer, the picture was executed partly in the presence of the sitter, probably unable to have more time to appear in person. Consequently, the artist was aided by one of the most popular photographs showing the Marshal, which becomes clear when one compares both images.

Józef Piłsudski portait

Józef Piłsudski portrait - tactile adaptation