The Portraits of Krystyna Eufemia Radziwiłłówna with the ‘Masks’ of the Saints: An Attempt at Identification

Acta Academiae Artium Vilnensis



17th century painting, St Ann, St Mary Magdalene, St Benedict Day, Krystyna Eufemia Radziwiłłówna, Nesvyžius village, Kaunas City


The paper analyses the 17th century canvas “St. Ann the Third” that once belonged to the Nesvyžius Benedictines and is now held in a private collection. The research has concluded that Hieronymus Wierix’s (1553–1619) engraving “Earthly and Heavenly Trinity” served as a template for the said canvas, where the figure of St. Joseph was substituted with that of St. Ann’s. The analysis focuses on the specific traits of St. Ann’s face and hypothesises that the portrait of the saint bears similarities with Krystyna Eufemia Radziwiłłówna (1598–1657) who was a Benedictine nun and, since 1631, the abbess of the Nesvyžius Monastery. As a comparison, the research also draws on other artworks that the scholarship associates with this historical person: the sculpture of St Scholastica, once part of the altar in the Nesvyžius Church of Benedictines (currently in the Church of Novaya Mysh), and the canvas “Lamentation of Christ” in Kaunas Church of St. Michael (Radziwiłłówna is identified with the image of St. Mary Magdalene). It is likely that the sculpture of St. Scholastica was created in the likeness of Radziwiłłówna who was the then abbess of the monastery. This is confirmed by the abbess’ robe which, while unusual for the traditional portraits of St. Scholastica, is identical to those popular in the congregation of Culm Benedictines of the 17th century. The same line of argumentation allows us to assume that “St. Scholastica”, the painting by an unknown painter dated to the 17th century and displayed in Kaunas Church of St. Michael, is likely to have been created in the likeness of one of the abesses of the monastery. Meanwhile the paper rejects the identity between Radziwiłłówna and the figure of St. Mary Magdalene in the painting “Lamentation of Christ”. The research determined that this painting was created much later and replicates a 1635 composition from the Church of Santa Maria in Aquiro, Rome, attributed to the Italian painter J. Massa.



How to Cite

Janonienė, R. (2019). The Portraits of Krystyna Eufemia Radziwiłłówna with the ‘Masks’ of the Saints: An Attempt at Identification: Acta Academiae Artium Vilnensis. Acta Academiae Artium Vilnensis, (96), 87–105. Retrieved from