Julian Ursyn Niemcewicz (1758–1841)
Henryk Aschenbrenner, after a portrait by Antoine-Jean Gros, lithograph on cream tint, 19th c., 200 x 135.
Collection: Muzeum Fryderyka Chopina, Warsaw [M/1147].
Julian Ursyn Niemcewicz – poet, playwright, historian, publicist, political, social and cultural activist. In the salons of Warsaw, he listened to the concerts of the young Chopin, of whom he was very fond. Huge popularity was gained by his ¦piewy historyczne [Historical songs], familiar and sung in Polish homes, with music by Karol Kurpiński, Franciszek Lessel and Maria Szymanowska, among others. In Paris, where he settled in 1833, he participated in the work of the Historical and Literary Society of which Chopin was also a member. Ferenc Liszt recalls an evening at Chopin’s when Niemcewicz was present: ‘ The aged Niemcevicz [ sic ], who appeared to be the nearest to the grave among us, listened to the "Historic Songs" which Chopin translated into dramatic execution for this survivor of times long past. Under the fingers of the Polish artist, again were heard, side by side with the descriptions, so popular, of the Polish bard, the shock of arms, the songs of conquerors, the hymns of triumph, the complaints of illustrious prisoners, and the wail over dead heroes. They memorized together the long course of national glory, of victory, of kings, of queens, of warriors; and so much life had these phantoms, that the old man, deeming the present an illusion, believed the olden times fully resuscitated’ [Liszt].