Christ and Samaritan Woman

Henryk Hektor Siemiradzki

  • Christ and Samaritan Woman 2
Basic information
Henryk Hektor Siemiradzki
Christ and Samaritan Woman
Date of creation
Russian Empire
oil painting
canvas oil
Dimensions (height x width, cm)
106.5 x 184
Information about author
Henryk Hektor Siemiradzki
Artist's lifetime
Henryk Siemiradzki was a famous artist of Polish origin, a representative of late monumental academism, professor of the Saint Petersburg Academy of Arts, and honorary member of Academies of Fine Arts in Rome, Paris, Berlin and Turin. The artist was born on October 12 (24), 1843, in the village of Novobilhorod near Kharkiv (now the town of Pechenihy, Chuguiv district). Hipolit and Michalina Siemiradzki, his parents, were of Polish descent; the father of the future artist served as an officer in the Imperial Russian Army in the Kharkiv Governorate. Henryk Siemiradzki's talent for painting was recognized at a very early age, so the boy was sent to the Kharkiv gymnasium to get an education. His teacher was Dmytro Bezperchyi, who was a student of the famous artist Karl Briullov. However, after graduating from the gymnasium, the artist’s father insisted on his entering the Faculty of Physics and Mathematics at Kharkiv University. Nonetheless, Henryk Siemiradzki remained engaged in painting. In 1864, the future artist graduated from the university and defended a graduation thesis on "About insect instincts''. Still, associating his career only with art, he went to St. Petersburg to enter the Academy of Arts. There Siemiradzki was initially enrolled as a non-degree student; he studied in the life class mentored by Bogdan Willewalde and Karl Wenig. But later, due to his hard work and talent, Henryk was promoted to the general class, thus he became a full-fledged student of the Academy. In the long run, all that gave rise to the hope of his obtaining the Great Gold Medal and a free internship abroad; the artist managed to bring his hope into life after graduating from the Academy. After all, during his studies at the Academy, Henryk received many awards for his art works. In 1871, the artist went to Munich, where he worked for a year and studied with the German artist Karl Theodor von Piloty. From 1873, he was in Rome. In 1873, he painted the work “Sinner”, which was exhibited at the World's Fair in Vienna; the artist was awarded with the Golden Medal for that masterpiece, and that became his first international award. Later, the painting was sent to St. Petersburg, and the master was awarded the title of Academician for that work. In the same 1873 year, Siemiradzki married Maria Pruszynska. They had four children, namely three boys – Boleslav, Kazimierz (died in infancy), and Leon, and a daughter Wanda. In 1883, Henry bought a house and settled in Rome for good. In 1901, Henryk Siemiradzki was diagnosed with tongue cancer. The 58-year-old artist died on August 23, 1902, in the village of Strzalkowo (now Poland). He was first buried in the Powazki Cemetery in Warsaw near his parents' graves, however, a year later, he was reburied in the Krakow Pauline Church "Na Skalce" (“On the Rock”). The main themes of his work were taken from ancient and sacred stories; less frequently, he painted portraits. The artist’s works are characterized by theatricality, scenic depiction of landscapes, and academic idealization; in his works, the artist managed to capture air effects, light, and variability of colors highly influenced by light.
Object description
Against the background of a sunny landscape (with broad-brimmed olive trees on the left and small hills on the right, with the outlines of a town in the distance) a scene of a conversation between Christ and a Samaritan woman is depicted. Jesus is a young man with shoulder-length dark hair and an elongated beard, wearing a light-coloured robe, sitting on the edge of a small waterhole and looking to the right. On the opposite side of the well (adjacent to the waterhole) stands a young woman looking intently at Christ. The Samaritan woman wears a headscarf (tied in the manner of an oriental headdress), revealing her dark hair in braids with colourful ribbons. The woman is dressed in light sleeveless clothing (with a red sash around her waist) and is wearing massive jewellery: earrings, a necklace, a shoulder bracelet (probably made of gold). She rests on the edge of the well with the right knee, where there is also a large painted jug (the woman holds it up with her right hand). The shade of the trees falls on the face of Jesus and the Samaritan woman, although the sun does shine on the centre of the work – the left hand of Christ, with which he points to the well.
In the bottom left there is a signature: «H.Siemiradzki 1890». On the reverse side handwritten by the author: «Droit de reproduction réservé. 1890. H.Siemiradzki».