Martyrdom of Saint Stephen

Jan Henryk de Rosen

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Basic information
Jan Henryk de Rosen
Martyrdom of Saint Stephen
Date of creation
paper watercolor tempera lacquer
Dimensions (height x width, cm)
65 x 99
Information about author
Jan Henryk de Rosen
Artist's lifetime
Jan Henryk de Rosen – 20th century Polish secessionist painter, renowned master of sacred painting and an outstanding muralist. He made frescoes, sketches for stained glass windows and easel paintings. Worked in Lviv, Vienna, Przemysl, Washington. Received art education in schools in Lausanne, Paris and Munich. His artistic work began in 1923–1925–1933. He worked in Lviv, notably in the Armenian Cathedral. He also decorated the interiors of many churches in Europe and America with his murals, stained glass and mosaics. Particularly, he painted the church in Przemysl, the papal chapel in Castel Gandolfo (Italy, 1933–1934). Worked in the USA, where he created a grandiose mosaic panel "Christ Pantocrator" in the Saint-Louis Cathedral. He was awarded the Order of St Gregory the Great by Pope Paul VI in 1977 for his significant contribution to sacred art.
Object description
"Martyrdom of Saint Stephen" was first exhibited in September 1925 in the Zacheta Gallery in Warsaw. In November of the same year, it was shown in Lviv at the exhibition of the Society of Art Supporters in the halls of the Lviv Museum of Art and Industry among six other works by Rosen, which caused a considerable public response. The same year, the young artist was invited by Archbishop John Theodorovich to paint the interior of the Armenian Cathedral in Lviv. The work The Martyrdom of Saint Stephen influenced the composition of "Crucifixion" in the Lviv Cathedral. The iconography of the work carries the traditions of the early Middle Ages, in particular the images on the reliefs of French and Italian cathedrals, where Saint Stephen stands before a crowd that threatens him. Saint Stephen is one of the great martyrs, the first of the seven deacons to preach the Gospel. It was he who put forward the idea of Ecumenical Christianity, soon to be heralded by St Paul the Apostle, before his baptism named Saul of Tarsus. Rosen interpreted the theme close to his own spiritual quest. The content of the overall solution of the work is subordinated to the idea of Ecumenical Christianity. From this universal idea follows the belief in the complexity of man's search for the way to the Highest. The multi-figured, frieze-like, multi-dimensional composition is as if divided into two parts by the verticals of a Gothic cathedral. The main action of the work unfolds in the foreground: it gives the impression of a theatrical performance. On the right-hand side is St Stephen in the bright red robe of the deacon. He turns to God in prayer. His faith is unshakable. Stephen is opposed by a crowd, with a young man with a stone in his hand in the centre. His backwards figure radiates elemental energy, adding dynamics to the overall static composition. The third link in the work's profoundly compositional assembly is the figure of the young man Saul, who sits in deep contemplation on a stone with a relief carved into it. The scene in relief depicts a heaven-stricken and blinded Saul, who has fallen from his horse. Soon after his epiphany and penance, Saul was baptised.
On the bottom left there is author's signature and date.