Paja Jovanović is one of my favourite Serbian painters. I’ve written about his house-museum in Belgrade, but I’ve also included many of his paintings in various other posts. You can see his paintings in the National Museum in Belgrade, in Matica Srpska Gallery in Novi Sad and in the National Museum in Zrenjanin.
NATIONAL MUSEUM PANČEVO
But, let’s start with a word about the National Museum in Pancevo. Established in 1923, the museum is in the former Magistrate or City Hall building, built in 1838, that you can see in the photo below. This building is in the main King Peter I Square, thus if you go to Pancevo, you can’t miss it. But you can miss visiting the museum.
I say this because, as per the established tradition in almost all museums that I visited in Serbia, I was the only person in the museum. I can try not to be too harsh, but this fact clearly points at the sad state of culture in Serbia. Is it really possible that no one is interested in visiting museums?
Anyway, it’s up to all of us individually to seek to better ourselves on a daily basis, even if it means occasionally going to a museum for an hour or so, to see beautiful works of art produced by some very talented people. Especially if the entrance is free, as it was in the museum in Pancevo.
But I would also like to add that I was very glad to be the only person in the museum. I spent an hour there and I had a fantastic chat with the museum curator who took me around and explained everything to me in detail. It was a phenomenal private tour.
I asked her if anyone comes to the museum. She told me that, even before the coronavirus epidemic, very few people came. As an illustration of the situation before we started the tour, she had to switch the lights on, as they normally keep them switched off. Well, what’s the point in wasting electricity when no one is there anyway?
The facade of the building is restored and looks very pretty. But inside, the building is in a rather poor state. She also told me that there was no money to restore the museum. The permanent collection that once occupied the whole front of the building has been moved to one side wing, consisting of four rooms only. It means that not everything that museum possesses can be seen, because there is no room for everything.
It was quite disheartening to hear all that. No matter how small the permanent collection is compared with what’s in bigger and more important museums in Serbia, still it’s a national treasure that should be cherished and appreciated by everyone.
In the photo below, you can see a room that houses the most important exhibit – Paja Jovanović’s legendary painting.
“MIGRATION OF THE SERBS”
Paja Jovanović produced four copies of this painting. The first one is in the Patriarchate Court in Belgrade. This one, in the museum in Pancevo, is the second copy. The third one has been lost and the fourth one is in the Princess Ljubica’s Residence in Belgrade, although I’ve never seen it there.
The painting depicts events of 1690, when up to 40000 Serb refugees, fearing Ottoman retribution after the revolt in 1689, migrated from Ottoman ruled southern parts of Serbia to Habsburg Vojvodina.
This event occupies a significant place in the Serbian psyche and in the centuries long struggle under the Ottoman occupation. Thus, this painting is probably one of the most important Serbian paintings of all times.
Until the Second World War, the painting belonged to Pavle Ručinski from Belgrade. He was married to Zagorka Radojičić from Pancevo. They emigrated from Serbia just before the war and left the painting to Zagorka’s sister Marija. The painting was hidden until the end of the 1960s, when the couple Ručinski gifted it to Marija. At that point she could sell it.
The then Mayor of Pancevo took a loan from the bank and acquired it for the museum. So, this is how one of the most treasured Serbian paintings ended up in Pancevo, as narrated to me by the museum curator.
There are several more paintings by Paja Jovanović in the museum.
OTHER PAINTINGS IN THE MUSEUM
There is also a very small collection of the Serbian 19th century paintings in the museum, by some of the most prominent Serbian artists.
Both Uroš Predić and Stevan Aleksić decorated the Church of Holy Transfiguration, which I mentioned in my previous post.
Additionally, there are some religious paintings in the museum too, the oldest one is from the end of the 18th century.
THE REST OF THE MUSEUM
I don’t remember exactly, but I think that I took photos of all paintings currently exhibited in the museum. Apart from that, the rest of the museum is two more rooms and one corridor.
In the photo below, you can see the revolutionary flag of the Principality of Serbia during the 1848 uprising against the Austro-Hungarian rulers.
The last room is a small Ethnological department, showing the typical Serbian room.
In the corner of this rooom, there is also the Serbian kitchen. This resembles the Ethnological department in the National Museum in Zrenjanin, although it’s much smaller than the same department in the museum in Zrenjanin.
So, if you go to this museum, it’s really to see the spectacular “Migration of the Serbs” painting. Visiting Pancevo just for that reason is worthwhile. Although once there, you can also visit two magnificent Serbian Orthodox churches, plus the rest of a rather pleasant city.
I hope that this and my previous posts will inspire some people, especially from nearby Belgrade, to go there. It’s a perfect way to spend a day away from the big city and to see something completely new.