The Temptation of Christ by Napoleon Iłłakowicz: A Vision of the Struggle Between Good and Evil


  • Rūta Janonienė



Napoleon Iłłakowicz, Leonard Chodźko, Romanticism, 19th-century painting, Vilnius, Mečislovas Sakalauskas, iconography of Christ, iconography of Satan


The article discusses the painting The Temptation of Christ by the 19th-century Lithuanian artist Napoleon Iłłakowicz (Napoleonas Ylakavičius, 1811–1861), which has been known so far only from mentions in literature and a description given by Adam Honory Kirkor in the artist’s obituary in 1862. The collected facts of the history of this canvas and Kirkor’s description allowed the author of this article to establish that the same painting was captured in Mečislovas Sakalauskas’s photograph of 1968, which today is held in the collection of the Lithuanian National Museum of Art. At the time of photographing, the painting was held in the Church of Saints John in Vilnius; its present location is unknown. Thus, the surviving photograph is the only iconographic source offering us a possibility to discuss this painting, which is quite extraordinary in the context of Iłłakowicz’s work. The ideas embodied in the painting are discussed through their relation to the artist’s worldview. Many facts of the artist’s public and personal life are published for the first time in this article.

Author Biography

Rūta Janonienė

is an art historian, a Doctor of Humanities in art research (1994, habilitated in 2008), a senior researcher at the Institute of Art Research of the Vilnius Academy of Arts, a full member of the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences, and a member of the Lithuanian Society of Art Historians. Fields of research: 15th–19th century sacral and secular art and related phenomena, sources of artistic culture, the work of professors and students of the Vilnius Art School of the 19th century. She published the monographs Jan Rustem (1999), Kazimierz Jelski (2003), The Bernardine Church and Convent in Vilnius. The Reflections of Franciscan Spirituality in the Furnishing and Decoration of the Ensemble (2010), The Sapieha Palace in Antakalnis (2012, together with Evaldas Purlys), as well as a great number of scholarly articles in Lithuanian and international publications and collective monographs; she also takes part in preparing exhibitions.

Unknown Lithuanian artist, Infant Jesus sleeping on the cross, 18th c., oil on canvas, photo by Antanas Lukšėnas



How to Cite

Janonienė, R. (2022). The Temptation of Christ by Napoleon Iłłakowicz: A Vision of the Struggle Between Good and Evil. Acta Academiae Artium Vilnensis, (106), 240–259.