65.5 x 49 cm
signed and dated lower left: - Krudowski - / 1881
The painting attests to the close friendship between the Polish painters Franciszek Krudowski and Jan Styka (Leopoli 1858 - Rome 1925) , students of the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna, who in their early twenties had moved to Rome, where they had resided at the Palazzo Venezia, at the time owned by the Austrian government  . Arriving in the Eternal City with a postgraduate scholarship in 1880, Krudowski was joined the following year by Styka, also winner of the Rome Prize. The two, who had already copied the great masters preserved in local galleries in Vienna, had concentrated on the study of ancient art, but had also shown interest in Roman antiquities reinterpreted through the mediation of Henry Siemiradzki, author of the highly acclaimed Nero's torches (1876, Krakow, National Museum). Krudowski had subsequently extended his Roman stay until 1893, and then, after a period of travel, settled in Krakow, where he devoted himself mainly to religious and mythological themes. Styka, illustrator, patriot, poet and successful painter, after a further period of specialization in Krakow under the guidance of Jan Matejko, had dedicated himself to religious and history painting and had distinguished himself by creating monumental panoramas, depicting the Battle of Raclawice with Wojciech Kossak (1893, Bratislava, National Museum), Transylvania (Bem in Siedmiogrod) (1897) scattered in fragments, the Golohta ( 1896, Glendale, Forest Lawn Memorial Park), exhibited in major European cities before taking the US road. The canvas in question, dated 1881, follows a first portrait of Styka made by Krudowski still in Vienna. The identification of the young model, advanced by Bruno Mantura, can be confirmed on the basis of the photographic portrait published in the catalog of the artist's exhibition held in 1899 at the Municipality of Lviv  . The compositional system and the chromatic range of the work attest to the profound research that Krudowski was conducting at the time on the painting of the Italian Renaissance. According to a very popular sixteenth-century model, Styka wears a dark suit with a white collar, which reflects the light illuminating his gracefully featured face, and is portrayed slightly in three-quarter length with a book in his hands. In the highly calibrated construction of space, completely saturated by the human figure, the hand, very clear, constitutes the natural counterpoint to the face, in a game of balance between skin tones and fabrics. The traditional layout, certainly influenced by recent studies, but devoid of any academicism, is reinterpreted and updated by the intense gaze with which the young student of painting turns towards the viewer, revealing at a glance the hopes and expectations, but also the anxieties, typical of the generation of artists born after the mid-nineteenth century, who are inexorably preparing to enter the new century by pursuing a research built around the dialectic between tradition and modernity. It is no coincidence that Krudowski's gaze is equally intimate, intense and modern in the portrait (Warsaw, National Museum) created the following year, again in Rome by Styka himself.
Teresa Sacchi Lodispoto
 A. Małaczyński, Jan Styka (szkic biograficzny) , Lwów, Drukarnia Uniwersytecka, 1930, pp. 16-17.