Gediminas’s Dream in Art: The Political and Cultural Context
Keywords:Gediminas’s dream, Iron Wolf, legend of the founding of Vilnius
In the article, the theme of Gediminas’s dream and its reception in 19th–21st century art is analyzed with a focus on the political and cultural aspects that made an impact on the formation of the tradition of representing this motif in artworks, and its change. It was not until the middle of the 19th century that this subject popularized by chroniclers and historians appeared in fine art; until then, it was only found in texts.
The Gediminas legend combines real historical events and a mystical vision; thus, it is not surprising that this theme was aligned with the world perception of the 19th and early 20th century. Artists fascinated with the ideas of Symbolism expanded the rather literal iconography of Gediminas’s dream formed in the era of Romanticism, combining a nostalgic view of the past with ethnic motifs. In independent interwar Lithuania, stripped of its historical capital, the narrative of Gediminas’s dream became one of the key topics of propaganda art; its imagery was also successfully disseminated in popular culture. In the Soviet period, when patriotic aspirati- ons were not tolerated in official art, the history of one of the founders of the Lithuanian state, Duke Gediminas, in many cases was reduced to the legend of the founding of the city of Vilnius. Finally, when the country’s independence was restored, the statehood-related connotation of this topic regained prominence, and a monument to Gediminas became probably the state’s most important initiative, and later, in the 1990s, also an object of discussions. The history of the founding of the capital of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania has not lost its relevance today, and its popular symbols (the Iron Wolf, the castle tower and the image of Grand Duke Gediminas) are used in both traditional and somewhat unexpected forms. Analysing how the relevance of the legend of Gediminas’s dream has been changing is one of the most convenient ways to overview and explain the impact of the political situation on the language of art.