Patronka cywilizacyjnej przemiany. Biała legenda Marianny Skórzewskiej wykreowana w dobie upadku Rzeczypospolitej


  • Aleksander Jankowski Instytut Historii i Stosunków Międzynarodowych, Katedra Historii Kultury, Uniwersytet im. Kazimierza Wielkiego, ul. Księcia J. Poniatowskiego 12, 85-671 Bydgoszcz

Słowa kluczowe:

Skórzewska, Marianna (1741-1773 ; hrabina), Fryderyk II Wielki (król Prus ; 1712-1786), historia Polski, historia Prus, polsko-pruskie stosunki, legendy polskie



Marianna Skórzewska née Ciecierska (1741–1773) belonged to the intellectual elite circle privileged to be involved in direct disputes with King Frederick II. The King of Prussia commented favourably on Marianna’s knowledge and intelligence in 1767 in a letter to Voltaire. Acquaintance with the King was a social advantage to the Polish countess, who came from a provincial Great-Poland gentry family lacking high connections. After the first partition of Poland (1772), however, links with the royal court in Berlin led to her being accused of betray-ing her nation. It was rumoured that Marianna had had some influence on delineating the new Polish-Prussian border, which cast suspicion on her family. This shadow of disgrace was felt particularly by Marianna’s son, Fryderyk Skórzewski, King Frederick’s godson. A graduate of Collegium Nobilium, brought up to be a Polish patriot by his grandmother, Anna Ciecierska née Malechowska, Fryderyk worked consistently to blot out the negative opinions about his moth-er’s life choices. He created her “white legend”, presenting her as a enlightened, virtuous pa-triot and progenitor of a great family. The “white legend” surfaced for the first time in a portrait painted by Józef Wall in 1787. The picture, combining the fashionable conventions of the con-versational piece and “grand tour memorabilia”, includes an imaginary image of Marianna in the form of an antique-style bust on a high plinth. The countess is shown as a patroness of her son and his land, symbolized by the landscape in the background and a map of the Łabiszyn estate with the channel supplying the Bydgoszcz Canal exposed in the centre. Fryderyk Skórzewski’s portrait is in fact a panegyric of his mother as the initiator of constructing the Bydgoszcz Canal, i.e. a patroness of progress. Marianna’s bust symbolizes the pride, dignity, wealth and social position of the Skórzewski family. The “white legend” of his mother was further promoted through the layout and decoration of Fryderyk Skórzewski’s new residence in Lubostroń near Łabiszyn, built in the years 1800-1804 by Stanisław Zawadzki. The building, fashioned like a domed Palladian villa in the English neo-Palladian style, evoked associations with an antique pantheon. In such a place the myth of Marianna’s patriotism gained a sacral aura. Marianna was shown in one of four large reliefs in the rotunda salon. The countess, accompanied by the goddess Fame, presents King Frederick II with a map of the Bydgoszcz Canal. The relief was modelled on an oil painting by Christian Bernhard Rode, known as “Frederick II scrutinizing the design of the Bydgoszcz Canal”. The picture was displayed in the Conference Hall of the War and Economy Chamber Office in Bydgoszcz, headed by Fryderyk Skórzewski since 1806. In this allegoric painting Frederick II is shown as an enlightened ruler promoting a daring engineering enterprise which is to facilitate the economic progress of the land annexed by Prussia. The same idea is conveyed in the Lubostoń relief but here it is Marianna, unrolling the map in the presence of Fame, that is presented as the initiator of the Canal. The scene, which reveals the timeless importance of the project, makes the countess a patroness of progress whose results will be beneficial for future generations. Her involvement in the enterprise becomes a claim to fame and a reason to be well remembered. The sense of the image is deepened by its juxtaposition with the other reliefs of the rotunda salon. They show scenes from the history of Polish fights against the Teutonic Order: the battles of Płowce and Koronowo, as well as Queen Jadwiga’s (Hedwig’s) negotiations with the Grand Master of the Order at a summit in Inowrocław. Marianna, carrying the design of the Bydgoszcz Canal, has been placed next to famous historical personages: King Władysław (Ladislaus) the Elbow-high, Florian Szary, Queen Jadwiga, knight Naszan. Fryderyk made her achievements part of a glorious cycle from Polish history represented in the grand hall of his family residence. The symbolic quality of this “national pantheon” is stressed by a floor with the arms of the Commonwealth, a frieze showing an offering made to Jove after a victory and panoplies pointing to the triumphal character of the place. Fryderyk Skórzewski’s motto Semper recte, placed over the rotunda entrance, is a signifi-cant commentary to Marianna’s image with the design of the Canal. It makes the countess’s deeds and intentions an expression of patriotism equal to the armed actions of Polish knights and the political courage of Queen Jadwiga. Marianna, decorated by Fame with a garland of glory, takes her place in a pantheon of patriots. By presenting his mother as a promoter of the economic progress of the region on the NotećRiver, Fryderyk claimed a moral right to the high office he was appointed to in the administra-tion of the Duchy of Warsaw. This declaration was directed mainly to the Great-Poland gentry that did not support the Skórzewski family. Manifesting his patriotic roots, Fryderyk simultaneously declared his loyalty to the new regime. In 1815, when the aristocracy of the Grand Duchy of Poznań enjoyed ostensible political freedom, the images, when interpreted without an anti-Prussian attitude, could be read as an allegory of two formerly hostile nations cooperating for the common good. The Bydgoszcz Canal started a new era of good relations and the countess personified a new reason of state realized through alliances. The “white legend” created by Fryderyk Skórzewski did not survive the toughening of Prussian policies concerning Poles. The “black legend” revived among Great-Poland gentry, making it hostile to Marianna’s progeny. Further generations of the Skórzewski family tried to make up for that by patriotic deeds and work.


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Jankowski, A. (2014). Patronka cywilizacyjnej przemiany. Biała legenda Marianny Skórzewskiej wykreowana w dobie upadku Rzeczypospolitej. Kwartalnik Historii Kultury Materialnej, 62(2), 227–241. Pobrano z



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