Story of the birth of the „Transylvanian Panorama”
The purpose of the national exhibition held in 1896 was the celebration of the one thousand year anniversary of the Hungarian conquest of the Carpathian basin led by Árpád. The work of Wojciech Kossak and Jan Styka, the „Racławice Panorama” was presented at this time and it was admired by a crowd several thousand strong. After the success of the Polish panorama, asked Jan Styka to prepare a similar work about a story praising the Hungarians. As the 50th anniversary of the independence war of 1848/49 was nearing in, it was decided that one of its most memorable successes should be the theme: the siege of Nagyszeben (Sibiu) in March 1849. The Polish artist gladly accepted the offer, not just by reason of the significant fee and in hope for the fame but also because this way he could bring the public’s attention to the role of his Polish fellow men in the independence war of 1848/49.
The „Transylvanian Panorama”
Jan Styka embarked on the work with great enthusiasm together with Polish and Hungarian painters. (Also Pál Vágó participated in the process who was one of the creators of the Feszty Panorama). For the sake of historical genuineness the location around Sibiu, Transylvania was inspected and Styka also managed to meet some of the eye-witnesses of the actual events. The panorama was painted in the circular hall in Lwów. The original title was „Bem in Transylvania”, but analogous to the „Racławice Panorama” the artwork was rather titled „Transylvanian Panorama” in Hungary. The panorama completed at the end of 1897 was rolled up and transported to Hungary early next year. The presentation ceremony was held in the Circular Hall in Budapest in March 1898, then it was also exhibited in several towns around Hungary. It had enormous success and Jan Styka became a celebrated artist also in Hungary.
Battle of Nagyszeben/Sibiu
During the Hungarian independence war, in November 1848 Józef Bem, the field officer who became famous during the Polish uprising of 1831, was appointed as the commander of the Hungarian troops in Transylvania. By the end of the year Bem managed to oust the Imperial and Royal (Austrian) forces from North-Transylvania. Then freed up Szeklerland and then engaged in serious battles in South-Transylvania with the Austrian army led by General Anton Puchner and with its supporting Russian troops. The victory of the Hungarian army at Piski enabled that Bem could attempt again the siege of the most important military centre of South-Transylvania, the heavily fortified Sibiu. His military genius is shown by the fact that he tricked the army of Puchner that outnumbered his troops and conquered Sibiu on 11 March 1849 with the Hungarian army five thousand strong. The defenders gave up the heavily fortified town after serious combat. The conquering of this town was the greatest success of Bem’s campaign in Transylvania.
Afterlife of The „Transylvanian Panorama”
Despite of the popularity of the panorama, Jan Styka rolled up his work in 1900 and took it to Galicia as he did not see any chance to receive the previously agreed fee from his principals in Budapest. The panorama was exhibited in 1907 in Warsaw. This was the last public display of the full panorama. Due to financial difficulties Styka had the panorama cut into carefully selected pieces. This way a collection of pictures was formed but no one knows how many individual pictures there are. If the painting was in good condition, even after it was rolled up several times, then it had to be a lot of parts. Between the two world wars several parts of the „Transylvanian Panorama” were exhibited in Poland. In 1927 two parts were published on postcards. One pictured Bem, while the other one pictured Petőfi. From the 1970s, the museum of Tarnów, the birth town of Bem, strived to collect as many parts as possible.