Napoleon Orda, a son of gentleman from Kobrin district Mikhail Orda, who was a fortification engineer, was born on February 11, 1807, in a family manor named Varatsevichy, situated in Pinsk district, which is now a village in Ivanov district.
In the revolt of 1830-31, Orda fulfilled his revolutionary liberation intents brought up during his studies at the University.
He took an active part in that revolt as a rifleman of Cavalry regiment 4, the Lithuanian Corps in Polish Kingdom.
For his works, Orda chose the special manner of drawing, which was pencil sketching, lightly tinted with water colours, gouache or sepia.
This kind of technique perfectly fit dynamic style of Orda's travels. It allowed him to make quick but detailed sketches of architecture and landscapes.
Orda even set constant paper format for his works — he always used a 30-centimeter long sheet glued to a plate. Life and creative work of Napoleon Orda is a bright page in history of national culture.
On most of his pictures Napoleon Orda reflected the unique picturesque panorama of Belarus — its marvelous landscapes and wonderful pieces of urban, township and rural architecture; its churches and palaces. Artistic heritage of Orda generates the image of his native land, which seems an illustrated material culture encyclopedia.
Napoleon Orda, a son of gentleman from Kobrin district Mikhail Orda, who was a fortification engineer, was born on February 11, 1807, in a family manor named Varatsevichy, situated in Pinsk district (Minsk region), which is now a village in Ivanov district (Brest region).
Orda got his primary education at home — from the parents, then he continued further studies at Svislach Gymnasia which he successfully finished in 1823.
Right after that, Orda entered Vilnya University, and became a student at the department of physics and mathematics. At those times, this famous University was the biggest educational center, a spotlight of liberal democracy. Though studying at the University came easily to him and professors marked his outstanding abilities, Orda — a gifted student — did not graduated from the University successfully. In 1827 he was sent down from the department because he was exposed as a member of secret student society "Zaranie" (the Dawnbreakers). Members of this society — among whom there were such outstanding personalities as Adam Mickevich, Tomas Zan, lan Chachot, Ignat Domeiko — dreamed of independence for Rzech Pospolita - After his arrest and 15-month detention, Orda came back to the native village of Varatsevichy, where he, however, stayed under police supervision. There he finished his education.
In the revolt of 1830-31, Orda fulfilled his revolutionary liberation intents brought up during his studies at the University. He took an active part in that revolt as a rifleman of Cavalry regiment 4, the Lithuanian Corps in Polish Kingdom. Battle at Kotske was a success for him — then he received a high award — Golden Cross Decoration (Virtuti Militari) — and was appointed a captain of rebel army. In 1831, after the revolt was suppressed, Orda had to emigrate to Italy, across Austria and Switzerland. In 1833 he moved to Paris, At those times Paris was a center of revolutionary and democratic emigrants.
Atmosphere of rapid cultural life, artistic and scientific circles in Paris added much to the development of Orda's multiple skills and abilities, his creative nature. By that time, Orda had already revealed professional interest and sense toward music and painting. Frederic Chopin mastered his musical art, in which Orda showed great achievements. Orda's polonaises, waltzes, serenades and mazurkas were highly admired by F. Chopin, F. List and S. Maniushka who were conquered with melody, drama, virtuoso style, rich contents and lyrics of his musical works. Orda composed music for romances and songs written by S. Vitnitsky and A. Plougue. He published “Album Of Polish Composers" (1838), “Musical Grammar" (Warsaw 1837). In the mid-1840s he was a director of Italian Opera House in Paris.
Orda also means an outstanding name in literature. He wrote articles about famous people and interesting places. In 1856, Orda published a Polish-French handbook. Earlier — in 1839 — he was accepted a member of Polish historical and literary society.
In Paris Orda attended studio of the famous artist Pierre Gerar who's genre was architectural landscapes. There Orda got his artistic education and there his artistic genre was basically shaped. Archeology and architecture became the sphere of his artistic interest. Drawing turned for him not only a piece of art but a historical document in which there are depicted valuable architectural monuments. That is why Orda furnishes his walk with historical annotation. He tends to record every possible detail — like names of manor and palace proprietors, religion of the churches, year of foundation, construction, etc. His works vividly show his desire to share his own foundings and impressions from travels with the audience.
In 1856, after tzar's government announced amnesty to political immigrants, 49-year-old Napoleon Orda came back to native Varatsevichy Later on, from 1862-1863 he lived in Grodna, then he moved to Pinsk, where he settled down for a short while. Qrda worked as private teacher of music for a family of General Adam Rzhavousky at Valyn for living.
In his spare time Orda traveled a lot over Belarus, Lithuania, Poland and Ukraine, where he made many sketches of architectural and historical monuments, townships and villages, along with famous places where outstanding people lived and worked. Those travels resulted in an impressively great collection of over 1150 pieces; about two hundred of those drawings are views of Belarus.
For his works, Orda chose the special manner of drawing, which was pencil sketching, lightly tinted with water colours, gouache or sepia. This kind of technique perfectly fit dynamic style of Orda's travels. It allowed him to make quick but detailed sketches of architecture and landscapes. Orda even set constant paper format for his works — he always used a 30-centimeter long sheet glued to a plate.
Most of Orda's attention was focused on the pictures of several manors and memorable places, somehow related to such famous names in culture as A. Mickevich (manors in Zavosse and Tuganovichi), M. Aginsky (palace in Retavas, Lithuania), S, Maniushka (manor in Ubel village), I. Hodzka (manor in Dzeviatnia village, Lithuania), U. Syrakomlia (manor in Smolhava), A Plougue (manor in Zhukau Barok village), etc.
Twice during I860, Orda made sketches of his native places and his dear manor Varatsevichy. In his drawings there is a single-store bar wooden house for two families. This house has traditional four-column portico threshold in the center of front facade with a small garret over it. In front of the house there is a front yard with the picturesque park behind. Such manor of a small Polish gentleman was the most typical and the most spread in Belarus, which is shown in other Orda's drawings. Those cozy manors with modest apartments, parks and utility buildings seem to be closer than anything else to the artist's heart.
The series of drawings by Napoleon Orda generates the image of Belarusian village from the 19th century. Each of them shows national wooden architecture in a good detail, and fully retains national atmosphere. We see picturesque drops of Belarusian settlements amongst and alongside rivers and lakes, straw-roof huts, wooden churches and bell-houses, water and wind mills, wells and other rural views.
Urban architecture, however, takes most of his drawings (over 30 pieces). He created broad panoramas of multi-styled constructions for several towns, dated 19th century, among them — Grodna, Vitsebsk, Minsk, Magilev, Polatsk, Pinsk, Navagrudak, Neswizh, Turav, Svislach... Orda would nearly never generalize urban buildings. Each house was featured individually, street panoramas presented from acute aspect, architectural dominants distinguished.
Orda's special admiration is set on ancient temples, most of which lay in ruins at those times already. In two of his drawings there is depicted a monument to defensive architecture — White Tower in Kamenets — in its primary condition, without mark of further restoration and plaster. With romantic nostalgia, artist drew Old and New castles in Grodna, and temple residence of Ilyinichy in Mir. In Orda's drawings we see ancient Belarusian temples in Krev, Geranyony, Lida, Navagrudak, Karalin (Pinsk region).
With the esthetical feeling and some romanticism Orda sketched numerous magnate palaces and gentleman manors with their outer varnish, splendor and stately view. Artist's interest toward old-fashioned manors is explainable — there were times when these manors were cultural centers with numerous collections of pieces of art, huge libraries, archive stores, archeological and arms collections. In his drawings Orda reflected the main significance of this branch of construction, which is harmonious relation of monumental building with natural and park environment. Without that Orda's drawings would miss their artistic sense. Orda's landscape is rich. It is filled with rivers, lakes, ponds, access roads and alleys. Such perfect presentation of nice landscapes is inherent with the views of manors and palaces in Buinavichy, Vialikae Mazheykava, Dziatlava, Albertzin, Dziarechin, Vysokaye, Garadzeya, Dashkouka, Grodna and Beshankovichy.
Amongst Orda's drawings there is a wide series for cult architecture in Belarus from far past to the middle of 19th century. They are magnificent Catholic monuments in Neswizh, Grodna, Vitsebsk aside with simple wooden villain churches and chapels in Bezdzezh, Berazhnitsa, Brashevichy, Moladava, Anopal.
Artistic heritage of Napoleon Orda is a wonderful illustration for the development of architectural styles in Belarus. We admire the Middle Age gothic in the pictures of Farny Roman Catholic church in Grodna, Church of Boris and Gleb in Navagrudak, Roman Catholic churches in Gnyozna, Ishkaldz, Koydanava. While the architecture of ancient Russian period is represented by the pictures of Church of Boris and Gleb in Grodna, Sophia Cathedral and Spas-Eufrosynia Church in Polatsk.
Fragmentarily researched architecture of Renaissance can be seen in a temple-house in Gaitsiunishki and Mir castle.
Palaces and manors in Ruzhany, Dziatlava and Stanistavova reflect baroque and rococo styles. Their architecture is distinguished by sculpture plasticity with dog-leg shaped roofs, high cut elements with balconies and belfry frontons, facade wall piers, high windows with ductile shutters. Orda the traveler found chef-d'oeuvres of baroque cult architecture in Smilavichy (Missioners Monastery), Potatsk (Jesuits Monastery), Neswizh (Benedictine Convent), Slutsk (Bazillion Monastery of Trinity in Traichany), Dziarechyn (Dominique Catholic Church), etc...
Orda made the most vivid illustrations to the styles of classicism and umpire in Belarusian architecture. These are palaces in Albertzin (near Slonim) with umpire lion sculptures at the portico threshold, and in Dziarechyn, Grushavets, Palanechka, Snou, Zhylichy.
At the same time, the artist considers contemporary buildings of eclectics or historicism are of the same interest. Palaces and manors of those times were distinguished by individuality and uniqueness, and retrospective use of the architectural styles of the past- The so-called "castle style" which supposed the implementation of some castle architecture elements and shapes for decoration — like rack-and-pinion gear, slot windows, cut and cylinder towers — is seen in the manors in Masaliany, Dzeviatkavichy, Astroshitski Garadok. Through his drawings the artist reminds us that at those times it became more and more spread to set a winter garden at master's manor. The glass room can be either annexed to the house, like in the manor in Dukory and Paniamun, or is constructed separately from the house, like in Tuganavichy. In the picture with manor in Pryluki we observe turning back to gothic.
Orda classified his drawings, and put them into separate folders, where there were kept his works created during the period from 1840-80. Materials about Belarus are stored in the folder on Grodna gubernia (1860-77, 144 plates), Minsk gubernia (1864-76, 64 plates), Vitsebsk gubernia (1875-1876, 35 plates), Vilnya gubernia (1875-77, 50 plates), Magilev gubernia (1877,15 plates). Besides that, the artist also separated folders with drawings of landscapes in such far-away lands, as Volyn, Kiev, Padolsk, Kovna gubernias, Poznan Principality, Western Prussia and Galicia, France, Germany, Italy and Portugal. The most valuable Orda's drawings are copied with gravures in many periodical historical editions (for example, in Polish magazine "Tygodnik illustravany" — Illustrated Weekly — under the headline "From Napoleon Orda's Folder").
In 1873, Napoleon Orda began one more monumental work, which was the publication of "Album Widokow Historycznych Polski" — Album of Historical Sights in Poland. He invested his own money to this project. However, there were published only 8 series (nearly 120 pieces represent landscapes of Belarusian gubernias) of 260 lithographic printings, cut in stone by Alaiz Misurovich in the lithographic studio of Maximilian Faiance in Warsaw. Lack of money in Orda's family, who became rather poor, along with censors who revised materials for publishing and put their admission stamps, were the reasons for the incomplete publication of artist's works.
Most of Orda's drawings (977 plates) are now kept in Popular Museum in Krakow, where they got by donation in 1886 from the relatives after artist's death (1883). Part of drawings are in Popular Museum in Warsaw, album of water-colours is kept in the library named after V. Stefanik in Lvov (Ukraine). Considerable ollection of lithograph printings from the original Orda's drawings are preserved in the National library of Belarus. Besides drawings which were published in many editions, this album also contains nearly all main lithographs from drawings of Belarus, extracted from the funds of the National library. The employees from the rare book manuscripts and ancient book department — T.U. Roshchyna and V.U. Lissiankova — helped much with the selection of drawings. We would like to thank them for their work and kind cooperation in the preparation of this book.
Orda's drawings are not Just important works of art, but also a valuable source of information on the history of Belarusian architecture. From his drawings, we now imagine how architectural monuments and places, which do not exist any more or have drastically changed, looked like in the past. There are no longer existing wonderful old manors nor palaces in Moladava, Asveia, Benitsy, Varoncha, Zakozel, Dziarechyn, Lagoisk, Dubai. Monasteries and Catholic churches of Cartesian (Biaroza), Bazillion (Berazvecha), Carmelites (Bialynichy), Dominican (Valyntsy) — baroque chef-d'oeuvres — are completely ruined. In Orda's drawings Belarus recovers, like a phoenix bird recovers from ashes, grows with light contours of sacred architecture.
Life and creative work of Napoleon Orda is a bright page in history of national culture. Decency and modesty, multiple worthy interests, extraordinary talent and constant interest and sympathy to the destiny of native land were the peculiarities of Orda's personality, which featured him as one of the most outstanding figures — educator and philosopher — in Belarusian culture in the 19th century. Only at the fall of the 20th century we begin to realize the significance of our compatriot Napoleon Orda.
In 1997, in Ivanava town there was open a monument to Napoleon Orda, created by sculptor I. Golubev.
So. let the publication of this album become part of the esteem and gratitude to Napoleon Orda for his tireless great work for the Belarusian culture.
A.N. Kulagin. Belarus in pictures of Napaleon Orda. Second part of 19 c.