Allegoric portrait of Jakub Ludwik Sobieski

The fierce conflict over the inheritance from Jan III, which took place between Sobieski relatives in Warsaw and Żółkiew immediately after the monarch’s death, lasted until the convocation Sejm, thus ruining the family dignity and hopeful dynasty prospects. Aspiring for the Polish throne, the eldest Prince Jakub Ludwik Sobieski (1667–1737) launched dynamic political activity in the autumn of 1697 and managed to win over new supporters by means of money and sumptuous receptions. Nevertheless, he failed to ascend the throne, as in June 1697 the election Sejm rejected his candidacy.

Charles (Carl) de La Haye, based on a drawing by Jerzy Eleuter Szymonowicz-Siemiginowski: Allegoric portrait of Jakub Ludwik Sobieski, picture from the collection of the National Library in Warsaw.

A telling expression of the prince’s fight for the throne is a propaganda copperplate engraving published as an illustration before the title page of the print entitled Subditus fidelis Stanislai Okszyc Orzechowski Roxolani. Quondam ad Sigismundum Augustum I nunc ad serenissimum Augustum II, released in Warsaw in 1698. The print ordered by the young Sobieski was made by printmaker Charles de La Haye (1641– ?), active in the Polish capital from 1689, and was based on a drawing by Jerzy Eleuter Szymonowicz-Siemiginowski (died before 1711), the court painter of Prince Jakub Ludwik. It depicts the elect as a personification of the Polish Liberty, wearing a suit of armour, a royal coat and a crown on his head, seated on the throne which bears the inscription LIBERTAS. The young model’s left hand is resting on a closed book leaning against his thigh while the right one is holding a sword pointing upwards. The movement and the position of his legs allude to Cirro Ferri’s portrait of Ferdinando II de' Medici, which Eleuter must have seen in Palazzo Pitti in Florence. The decorative motif on the model’s coat is the crowned White Eagle. Included in the composition are numerous inscriptions of symbolic meaning, thus rendering the elect’s countenance somehow less significant.

The engraving is yet another piece of work of two cooperating artists interrelated additionally by friendship and family connections (Siemiginowski’s wife became godmother of La Haye’s son). Siemiginowski the painter worked, and possibly also lived, in the Kazimierzowski Palace, i.e. the residence of Prince Jakub Ludwik, and held his patron in high esteem so much so that in September 1691 he baptised his own son Jakub (absent from Warsaw, Prince Sobieski was represented at the ceremony by Voivode of Masovia Franciszek Wessel, while the prince’s wife Hedwig Elisabeth became the baby’s godmother). The artist’s second son was baptised in June 1693 and his godparents were the royal siblings, Prince Aleksander and Princess Teresa Kunegunda.

 

Charles (Carl) de La Haye, based on a drawing by Jerzy Eleuter Szymonowicz-Siemiginowski: Allegoric portrait of Jakub Ludwik Sobieski, copperplate engraving, publ. 1698.