0093 The Battle of Orsha – Court Propaganda or Chivalric Epic?

  • Volodymyr Hucul (Author)
    I.I. Miechnikov National University in Odessa

    Born in 1978 in Uzhhorod, Ukraine. Between 1995-2001 he studied History at the Uzhhorod National University. In 2000-2006 he worked for the Uzhhorod Museum of Folk Architecture and Heritage. In 2006-2009 he was a student of the PhD programme at the National University of "Kiev-Mohyla Academy". In 2011 he defended at this university his PhD dissertation titled "Knightly military technology in Kiev-Ruthenian state and the Kingdom of Poland and Lithuania between the 13th and 16th century: instruments, concepts and practices of armed violence". Since 2013 he has been working as a docent at the Faculty of History of Ukraine at the Uzhorod National University and a lecturer at the Faculty of Classical, Byzantine and Medieval Studies at the Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv. Since the beginning of 2014 he has been preparing his habilitation dissertation titled "Noblemen's military culture in Polish-Lithuanian Ruthenia from the second half of the 14th century to the mid-17th century" at the I.I. Miechnikov National University in Odessa.

  • Karolina Kolenda (Translator)

Identifiers (Article)


The Battle of Orsha, part of the collection of the National Museum in Warsaw, an example of panel painting (1525–1535), is of paramount importance for the study of the military, as well as for the research in art history, material history, and the history of political and military elites of Central-Eastern Europe during the Renaissance. The article describes the ways Ruthenian and Lithuanian-Polish elites used material and intellectual products of chivalric culture, and tackles the problem of documentary and propagandist role of visual narrative. Since the publication of works by David Freedberg1 and Peter Burke2 the necessity to recreate the context of making, functioning, and reception of images has become evident. Daniel Arasse has further expanded methodological tools of this type of research3. However, there are still numerous artworks whose historical and social context has either remained untouched by research, or has been researched insufficiently. Repeatedly, it has led to misinterpretations of such artworks in spite of their major position in culture. The Battle of Orsha is a spectacular example of this process.


Renaissance battle painting, Moscow-Lithuanian Wars, chivalric culture, arms and armour, knights