2019.09.08 12:00

‘Millennium’ painting of nude Lithuanian patriarchs moved from President's Palace to MO Museum 2019.09.08 12:00

There is a certain way that the patriarchs of the Lithuanian nation – Jonas Basanavičius, Simonas Daukantas, Maironis and the like – are to supposed to be portrayed. And it is not as barely distinguishable standers in a crowd, naked.

This is why Šarūnas Sauka's monumental ‘Painting for the Millennium of Lithuania's Name’ caused a minor uproar when it was hanged in the President's Palace in 2010 by the then President Dalia Grybauskaitė.

The huge irregularly-shaped canvas spans six metres and is Sauka's biggest piece that took two years to finish. It is comprised of nine parts and depicts figures from Lithuania's history of the last couple of centuries.

Painted in Sauka's recognizable style – a mixture of Medieval iconography and German modernism – most of the figures initially appear to merge into a single mass, but the faces become identifiable upon closer inspection.

There is the writer Žemaitė, the poet-priest Maironas, the painter-composer Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis, the interwar president Antanas Smetona and others whose faces are most readily recognizable from their portraits on former Litas currency notes.

They are depicted naked, as if to say that, despite their merits and status, they are humans with all the fear, loneliness and guilt that it entails, according to Sauka.

‘The Painting for the Millennium of Lithuania's Name’ was displayed in the President's Palace for nine years, over the two terms of Grybauskaitė's presidency, but her successor, Gitanas Nausėda, decided not to keep the piece.

The painting was moved to the MO Museum in Vilnius where it will be displayed until the end of September.