"Conversations with God: Jan Matejko's Copernicus" by Christopher Riopelle

Conversations with God: Jan Matejko's Copernicus Christopher Riopelle, Owen Gingerich, Andrzej Szczerski

Publication date:
23 Mar 2021
National Gallery London
80 pages: 229 x 271mm
40 color + b-w illus.
Sales territories:

Two icons of Polish culture and history, an artist and an astronomer

Largely unknown outside his homeland, Jan Matejko (1838–93) is widely regarded as the national painter of Poland, where he is revered for his huge minutely detailed depictions of key moments in the nation’s history. Focusing on Matejko’s masterpiece, Copernicus, this generously illustrated book introduces the artist to a wider public. His monumental painting celebrates the achievements of Polish astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus (1473–1543), whose heliocentric theory transformed our understanding of the universe. Rather than depicting Copernicus at the moment of his discovery, Matejko chose to paint him on a rooftop in his hometown of Frombork, discussing the matter with God. Copernicus was never excommunicated for challenging the authority of the Church; indeed, enlightened clerics of the day celebrated his breakthrough.

Christopher Riopelle is The Neil Westreich Curator of Post 1800 Paintings at the National Gallery, London. Owen Gingerich is professor emeritus of Astronomy and the History of Science, Harvard Univeristy, and senior astronomer emeritus at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory. Andrzej Szczerski is director of the National Museum in Krakow.