Saturday, 5 March 2016

Poland 1951 - General Dabrowski Revisited

In one of my first ever Slania Crazy! blogs last year, I did a review of Poland's 80th Anniversary of the Paris Commune stamp. You can check out that blog HERE. In the blog I discussed the fact that the portrait on the stamp was not that of General Jaroslaw Dubrowski as it should have been, but Henryk Dabrowski, the painter and composer. At the time I didn't know a lot about the stamp, so I questioned how it was known that the portraits were wrong. Well, I finally found some answers.

Issued 24 March 1951
In Close Up vol. 1 issue 4 (the Czeslaw Slania Study Group Quarterly Newsletter) I discovered a very interesting article that put my questions to rest. It seems that the portrait on the stamp actually is wrong. And the mistake dates to a long time before the 1951 stamp issue.

Our story starts with the painter and engraver, Achilles-Isidore Gilbert (1828-1899). Gilbert painted a portrait of General Dabrowski, but for some reason he based his painting on a portrait of composer Henryk Dabrowski, which was painted in 1862. So the mix-up has been started. And it gets worse! A man by the name of Charles-Jules Robert made an engraving of the General, but... That's right. He used Gilbert's painting - with the wrong guy on it - as the basis for his work. This engraving was then published in L'Illustation Journal Universal, No. 1469, 22 April 1871. Further exacerbating the confusion, this engraving was used repeatedly as a portrait of General Jaroslaw Dabrowski. In fact, it wasn't until 1971, when Dr Jerzy Zdrada discovered the historical confusion and published his findings in the Polish Weekly Przekroj, No. 1357, 11 April 1971.

So what did the real General Jaroslaw Dabrowski look like? Well, it turns out that an actual photograph of him was used as the basis for two later Poland stamp issues. 

Issued 20 June, 1962
Issued 10 March, 1971
I have also now discovered that the general appeared on a Polish banknote...

So there we have it. The mystery that has been bugging me since I worte that first blog last year has been finally solved!

Until next time...

Stay Slania Crazy!


  1. Very good explanation. Isn't strange one cannot find a photo or other traces of this composer Henryk Dabrowski?

    1. It sure is! And I have looked extensively. But I guess we don't really need a photo, when we have the stamp lol.