Jan Christoph Damel (1780–1840) left a significant mark on Belarusian fine art. Little is known about the early period of his life.
He was born in Courland in the family of a merchant. In 1799–1809 studied at the Faculty of Literature and Fine Arts of Vilnius University. He was a student of the famous artists Frantisek Smuhlevich and Jan Rustem. He worked for some time as an adjunct in the Department of Drawing and Painting after receiving a Master's degree. He was engaged in creativity at the same time with his studies and work at the university.
Jan Damel was under investigation in a criminal case against Vilnius counterfeiters in 1815. He was unjustifiably convicted and in 1820 sent to Siberia (Tobolsk, Tomsk, Yeniseysk). After the end of the exile in 1822, he arrived in Minsk, where he lived and worked until the end of his days.
The creativity of Jan Damel was formed to a greater extent under the influence of classicism. The Vilnius and Minsk periods were extremely fruitful and successful for the artist. Several dozens of paintings and graphic images have been painted over the years. Basic thematics of historical works by Jan Damel were connected with the past of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth: “The Loss of Prince Ponyatovskiy”, “Death of the Master of the Crusaders Ulrich von Yungingen in the Battle of Gruenwald”, “Death of Glinsky in the Captivity”, “Tvardovsky Shows Sigismund Augustus the Shadow of his Wife Barbara”, “The Setback of the Frenchmen Through Vilno in 1812”, “The Release of Tadeusz Kościuszko From the Captivity”.
A significant number of works by J. Damel are works on religious and mythological subjects: “Christ Carrying the Cross”, “Christ and the Samaritan Woman”, “The Encoffin”, “The Holy Virgin and Child”, “Сhristianisation of the Slavs” etc.
The artist painted many portraits, among which are not only images of noble figures (D. Radziwill, K. Tyszkiewicz, I. Khreptovich, M. Speransky, etc.), but also folks.
A large place in the works by J. Damel was dedicated to the landscape. The artist often depicted his native nature, but he especially painted expressive and emotional landscapes in a Siberian exile. Among the master’s works there are also sketches of Minsk and its environs (“Water Mill”, “Trees Under Water”).
The National Library of Belarus has a number of publications devoted to the analysis of the works by J. Damel. You can find out about them through the e-catalogue. Biographical data is presented in the database “Belarus in Persons and Events” and the National Database of Authoritative and Normative Records.
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