On most of his pictures Napoleon Orda reflected the unique picturesque panorama of Belarus — its marvelous landscapes and wonderful pieces of urban, township and rural architecture; its churches and palaces. Artistic heritage of Orda generates the image of his native land, which seems an illustrated material culture encyclopedia.
Napoleon Orda, a son of Polish
gentleman from Kobrin district Mikhail Orda, who was a fortification engineer,
was born on February 11, 1807, in a family manor named Varatsevichy, situated
in Pinsk district (Minsk region), which is now a village in Ivanov district
Orda got his primary education
at home — from the parents, then he continued further studies at Svislach
Gymnasia which he successfully finished in 182 3.
Right after that, Orda entered
Vilnya University, and became a student at the department of physics and
mathematics. At those times, this famous University was the biggest educational
center, a spotlight of liberal democracy. Though studying at the University
came easily to him and professors marked his outstanding abilities, Orda
— a gifted student — did not graduated from the University successfully.
In 1827 he was sent down from the department because he was exposed as
a member of secret student society "Zaranie" (the Dawnbreakers).
Members of this society — among whom there were such outstanding personalities
as Adam Mickevich, Tomas Zan, lan Chachot, Ignat Domeiko — dreamed of
independence for Rzech Pospolita. After his arrest and 15-month detention,
Orda came back to the native village of Varatsevichy, where he, however,
stayed under police supervision. There he finished his education.
In the revolt of 1830—31,
Orda fulfilled his revolutionary liberation intents brought up during
his studies at the University. He took an active part in that revolt as
a rifleman of Cavalry regiment 4, the Lithuanian Corps in Polish Kingdom.
Kotske was a success for
him — then he received a high award — Golden Cross Decoration (Virtuti
Militari) — and was appointed a captain of rebel army. In 1831, after
the revolt was suppressed, Orda had to emigrate to Italy, across Austria
and Switzerland. In 1833 he moved to Paris. At those times Paris was a
center of revolutionary and democratic emigrants.
Atmosphere of rapid cultural
life, artistic and scientific circles in Paris added much to the development
of Orda's multiple skills and abilities, his creative nature. By that
time, Orda had already revealed professional interest and sense toward
music and painting. Frederic Chopin mastered his musical art, in which
Orda showed great achievements. Orda's polonaises, waltzes, serenades
and mazurkas were highly admired by F. Chopin, F. List and S. Maniushka
who were conquered with melody, drama, virtuoso style, rich contents and
lyrics of his musical works. Orda composed music for romances and songs
written by S. Vitnitsky and A. Plougue. He published «Album Of Polish
Composers* (1838), «Musical Grammar* (Warsaw 1837). In the mid-1840s he
was a director of Italian Opera House in Paris.
Orda also means an outstanding
name in literature. He wrote articles about famous people and interesting
places. In 1856, Orda published a Polish-French handbook. Earlier — in
1839 — he was accepted a member of Polish historical and literary society.
In Paris Orda attended studio
of the famous artist Pierre Gerar who's genre was architectural landscapes.
There Orda got his artistic education and there his artistic genre was
basically shaped. Archeology and architecture became the sphere of his
artistic interest. Drawing turned for him not only a piece of art but
a historical document in which there are depicted valuable architectural
monuments. That is why Orda furnishes his works with historical annotation.
He tends to record every possible detail — like names of manor and palace
proprietors, religion of the churches, year of foundation, construction,
etc. His works vividly show his desire to share his own foundings and
impressions from travels with the audience.
In 1856, after tzar's government
announced amnesty to political immigrants, 49-year-old Napoleon Orda came
back to native Varatsevichy. Later on, from 1862-1863 he lived in Grodna,
then he moved to Pinsk, where he settled down for a short while. Orda
worked as private teacher of music for a family of General Adam Rzhavousky
at Valyn for living.
In his spare time Orda traveled
a lot over Belarus, Lithuania, Poland and Ukraine, where he made many
sketches of architectural and historical monuments, townships and villages,
along with famous places where outstanding people lived and worked. Those
travels resulted in an impressively great collection of over 1150 pieces;
about two hundred of those drawings are views of Belarus.
For his works, Orda chose
the special manner of drawing, which was pencil sketching, lightly tinted
with water colours, gouache or sepia. This kind of technique perfectly
fit dynamic style of Orda's travels. It allowed him to make quick but
detailed sketches of architecture and landscapes. Orda even set constant
paper format for his works — he always used a 30-centimeter long sheet
glued to a plate.
Most of Orda's attention
was focused on the pictures of several manors and memorable places, somehow
related to such famous names in culture as A. Mickevich (manors in Zavosse
and Tuganovichi), M. Aginsky (palace in Retavas, Lithuania), S. Maniushka
(manor in Ubel village), I. Hodzka (manor in Dzeviatnia village, Lithuania),
U. Syrakomlia (manor in Smolhava), A. Plougue (manor in Zhukau Barok village),
Twice during I860, Orda made
sketches of his native places and his dear manor Varatsevichy. In his
drawings there is a single-store bar wooden house for two families. This
house has traditional four-column portico threshold in the center of front
facade with a small garret over it. In front of the house there is a front
yard with the picturesque park behind. Such manor of a small Polish gentleman
was the most typical and the most spread in Belarus, which is shown in
other Orda's drawings. Those cozy manors with modest apartments, parks
and utility buildings seem to be closer than anything else to the artist's
The series of drawings by
Napoleon Orda generates the image of Belarusian village from the 19th
century. Each of them shows national wooden architecture in a good detail,
and fully retains national atmosphere. We see picturesque drops of Belarusian
settlements amongst and alongside rivers and lakes, straw-roof huts, wooden
churches and bell-houses, water and wind mills, wells and other rural
Urban architecture, however,
takes most of his drawings (over 30 pieces). He created broad panoramas
of multi-styled constructions for several towns, dated 19th century, among
them — Grodna, Vitsebsk, Minsk, Magilev, Polatsk, Pinsk, Navagrudak, Neswizh,
Turav, Svislach... Orda would nearly never generalize urban buildings.
Each house was featured individually, street panoramas presented from
acute aspect, architectural dominants distinguished.
Orda's special admiration
is set on ancient temples, most of which lay in ruins at those times already.
In two of his drawings there is depicted a monument to defensive architecture
— White Tower in Kamenets — in its primary condition, without mark of
further restoration and plaster. With romantic nostalgia, artist drew
Old and New castles in Grodna, and temple residence of Ilyinichy in Mir.
In Orda's drawings we see ancient Belarusian temples in Krev, Geranyony,
Lida, Navagrudak, Karalin (Pinsk region).
With the esthetical feeling
and some romanticism Orda sketched numerous magnate palaces and gentleman
manors with their outer varnish, splendor and stately view. Artist's interest
toward old-fashioned manors is explainable — there were times when these
manors were cultural centers with numerous collections of pieces of art,
huge libraries, archive stores, archeological and arms collections. In
his drawings Orda reflected the main significance of this branch of construction,
which is harmonious relation of monumental building with natural and park
environment. Without that Orda's drawings would miss their artistic sense.
Orda's landscape is rich. It is filled with rivers, lakes, ponds, access
roads and alleys. Such perfect presentation of nice landscapes is inherent
with the views of manors and palaces in Buinavichy, Vialiki Mazheyk, Dziatlava,
Albertzin, Dziarechin, Vysokaye, Garadzeya, Dashkouka, Grodna and Beshankovichy.
Amongst Orda's drawings there
is a wide series for cult architecture in Belarus from far past to the
middle of 19th century. They are magnificent Catholic monuments in Neswizh,
Grodna, Vitsebsk aside with simple wooden villain churches and chapels
in Bezdzezh, Berazhnitsa, Brashevichy Moladava, Anopal.
Artistic heritage of Napoleon
Orda is a wonderful illustration for the development of architectural
styles in Belarus. We admire the Middle Age gothic in the pictures of
Farny Roman Catholic church in Grodna, Church of Boris and Gleb in Navagrudak,
Roman Catholic churches in Gnyozna, Ishkaldz, Koydanava. While the architecture
of ancient Russian period is represented by the pictures of Church of
Boris and Gleb in Grodna, Sophia Cathedral and Spas-Eufrosynia Church
architecture of Renaissance can be seen in a temple-house in Gaitsiunishki
and Mir castle.
Palaces and manors in Ruzhany,
Dziatlava and Stanislavova reflect baroque and rococo styles. Their architecture
is distinguished by sculpture plasticity with dog-leg shaped roofs, high
cut elements with balconies and belfry frontons, facade wall piers, high
windows with ductile shutters. Orda the traveler found chef-d'oeuvres
of baroque cult architecture in Smilavichy (Missioners Monastery), Polatsk
(Jesuits Monastery), Neswizh (Benedictine Convent), Slutsk (Bazillion
Monastery of Trinity in Traichany), Dziarechyn (Dominique Catholic Church),
Orda made the most vivid
illustrations to the styles of classicism and umpire in Belarusian architecture.
These are palaces in Albertzin (near Slonim) with umpire lion sculptures
at the portico threshold, and in Dziarechyn, Grushavets, Palanechka, Snou,
At the same time, the artist
considers contemporary buildings of eclectics or historicism are of the
same interest. Palaces and manors of those times were distinguished by
individuality and uniqueness, and retrospective use of the architectural
styles of the past. The so-called "castle style" which supposed
the implementation of some castle architecture elements and shapes for
decoration — like rack-and-pinion gear, slot windows, cut and cylinder
towers — is seen in the manors in Masaliany, Dzeviatkavichy, Astroshitski
Garadok. Through his drawings the artist reminds us that at those times
it became more and more spread to set a winter garden at master's manor.
The glass room can be either annexed to the house, like in the manor in
Doukory and Paniamun, or is constructed separately from the house, like
in Tuganavichy. In the picture with manor in Pryluki we observe turning
back to gothic.
Orda classified his drawings,
and put them into separate folders, where there were kept his works created
during the period from 1840-80. Materials about Belarus are stored in
the folder on Grodna gubernia (1860-77, 144 plates), Minsk gubernia (1864-76,
64 plates), Vitsebsk gubernia (1875-1876, 35 plates), Vilnya gubernia
(1875-77, 50 plates), Magilev gubernia (1877,15 plates). Besides that,
the artist also separated folders with drawings of landscapes in such
far-away lands, as Volyn, Kiev, Padolsk, Kovna gubernias, Poznan Principality,
Western Prussia and Galicia, France, Germany, Italy and Portugal. The
most valuable Orda's drawings are copied with gravures in many periodical
historical editions (for example, in Polish magazine "Tygodnik illustravany"
— Illustrated Weekly — under the headline "From Napoleon Orda's Folder").
In 1873, Napoleon Orda began
one more monumental work, which was the publication of "Album Widokow
Historycznych Polski" — Album of Historical Sights in Poland. He
invested his own money to this project. However, there were published
only 8 series (nearly 120 pieces represent landscapes of Belarusian gubernias)
of 260 lithographic printings, cut in stone by Alaiz Misurovich in the
lithographic studio of Maximilian Faiance in Warsaw. Lack of money in
Orda's family, who became rather poor, along with censors who revised
materials for publishing and put their admission stamps, were the reasons
for the incomplete publication of artist's works.
Most of Orda's drawings (977
plates) are now kept in Popular Museum in Krakow, where they got by donation
in 1886 from the relatives after artist's death (1883). Part of drawings
are in Popular Museum in Warsaw, album of watercolours is kept in the
library named after V. Stefanik in Lvov (Ukraine). Considerable collection
of lithograph printings from the original Orda's drawings are preserved
in the National library of Belarus. Besides drawings which were published
in many editions, this album also contains nearly all main lithographs
from drawings of Belarus, extracted from the funds of the National library..
Orda's drawings are not just
important works of art, but also a valuable source of information on the
history of Belarusian architecture. From his drawings, we now imagine
how architectural monuments and places, which do not exist any more or
have drastically changed, looked like in the past. There are no longer
existing wonderful old manors nor palaces in Moladava, Asveia, Benitsy,
Varoncha, Zakozel, Dziarechyn, Lagoisk, Dubai. Monasteries and Catholic
churches of Cartesian (Biaroza), Bazillion (Berazvecha), Carmelites (Bialynichy),
Dominican (Valyntsy) — baroque chef-d'oeuvres — are completely ruined.
In Orda's drawings Belarus recovers, like a phoenix bird recovers from
ashes, grows with light contours of sacred architecture.
Life and creative work of
Napoleon Orda is a bright page in history of national culture. Decency
and modesty, multiple worthy interests, extraordinary talent and constant
interest and sympathy to the destiny of native land were the peculiarities
of Orda's personality, which featured him as one of the most outstanding
figures — educator and philosopher — in Belarusian culture in the 19th
century. Only at the fall of the 20th century we begin to realize the
significance of our compatriot Napoleon Orda.