Uroš Knežević (1811–76) (Урош Кнежевић) was a Serbian artist. He was born the town of Sremski Karlovci in Vojvodina (Thiswas then part of the Austrian Empire, now part of northrn Serbia on the border with Hungary.) Thus unlike most Serbs his early expriences were Western. Most of Serbia was contolled by the Ottoman Empire. Art was only one area impacted, but arguabbly most signifivantly impacted bcause of the huge difference between Ottoman (Islamic) and Western art. His father was Teodor and mother Julijana. Even though he lived and worked mostly in Serbia, his life story is not well known. He was engaged with art from childhood. He attended the Sremski Karlovci gymnasium (secondary school). He moved from from Austrian Vojvodina to Serbia (1834). With only secondary school drawing instruction. He fond it difficult to make a living. After centuries of Ottoman control, Serb had no aprreciation of Western art. He painted portraits of the local nobility and prominent citizens, but reports that he hadtrouble getting paid for his efforts. Not only did he have trouble making a living, he could not save the money needed to study in Vienna--which he desperately wanted. He even had trible getting paid for the work he completed for the Royal Family. Finally he found a relaible patron--the Church. He began painting walls and icons for Belgrade churches. Hewas thus able save thebmomey needed to study art in Vienna, a majpr goal. He describes his period of study in Vienna as a very happy time. He was was honored by being allowed to exhibit at the Viennese Art Exhibition (1846). For whatever reason, however, the Viennese Royal Art Academy has no record of his presence. He was primarily a portraitist and is considered the foremost Serbian portraitist (19th century). He has left an incredable record of Serbian leaders and notables during the era that Sebia was fighting for its freedom and independence (mid-19th centurty). We see Serbian leaders earing modern estern clothing, luxurious outfits with gold braid and richly embroidered. Almost all of his portraits are of important are well-to-do adults, but we have found a few portraits of children. Knežević died in Belgrade (1876).
This is one of the rare portarits of a child (figure 1). The boy is unidentified. And the portrait is reffered to as'boy with a feather, but it looks more like a quill pen. The boy looks to be wearing a kind of mix between a military uniform anf traditional clothing. Another dealer identifies the portrait as 'young Stanišić, 1839'. This could mean being a boy from Stanišić (a village near Sombor). Or Stanišić, a Serbo-Croatian surname. But we do not know who he was. The 1839 date means that he would have painted this before studying in Vienna.
We see a portrait Mileva Vukomanovi (1833-1914) as a girl. Usually we use images like this to estimate the age and date of the sitting which we can do because we know she was born in 1833. An art historian tells us, "In accordance with the commonly accepted concepts, little girls were portrayed dressed as teenage girls. Long shoulderless ball gowns, sumptuous jewellery, plaited or put up hair and a flower in the hair or in the hand gave them a hint of seriousness. Until the closing decades of the 19th century, there was no clear distinction between a little girl and a teenage girl in the bourgeois ideology of Serbian society. Their social position was the same regardless of the age and physical characteristics." Thus we are not dure just when the portait was done. We do know she is wearing European style clothing. The fact that she is having a portrait painted and the way dhe id dressed tells us that she came from a substantial bourgeois family. She was the daughter of Petar R. Vukomanović and Vasilija Vukomanović. She married Ranko Alimpić. Her siblings were Aleksa Vukomanović, Mileva Ranosović, Mihajlo Vukomanović, and Milica Krstić. She became a respected Serbian woman author. We have no information aon her writing.
Marko T. Leko (Марко Т. Леко) was a notable Serbian scientist, chemist, professor and president of the Serbian Red Cross. He was born in Belgrade to a sucessful merchant family (1853). They could afforf professioanl portraits. Kneževi's portrait shows Marko wearing a belted blue tunic with black piping. We are not sure what the pins or flowes are on his chest. He has a frilly blouse collar and pantalttes--a throughly European styles showing an Austrian or French influence. He would have been about 4 years old if the the 1856 attribution is correct. The book he is holding suggests a slightly older boy. The family could also aford to send Leko abroad for his education. He attended and graduated from Polytechnic school in Zurich, obtaining a doctoral degree in chemistry (1875). He published many papers and played a major role in the professionalisation of chemistry in Serbia. His work in analytical chemistry had two main interests: researching natural resources of Earth (mineral waters), and finding and improving new analytical methods. He was especially interested in chemical properties of natural spas and streams. He promoted spas in Obrenovac region. Leko was actively involved in the f Serbian Red Cross, holding various posts including president (1924). He had a large family. With his wife Danica (née Antula) he had 11 children. They were loving and dutiful parents. They dedicated much of their time to their children education: five of his sons became noted jurist (Dušan M. Leko), chemist (Aleksandar M. Leko), architect (Dimitrije M. Leko), general (Jovan Leko), banker and financier (Dragoljub M. Leko). His brother Dimitrije T. Leko was a renowned architect.
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