Our Lady of Sobieski
In the Wrocław Cathedral there is a particularly revered, grace-famous image of Our Lady of Sobieski, also known as the image of Our Lady of Victory, as well as Our Lady of Sorrows, painted in Rome around 1670-1685, probably by Giovanni Battista Salvi, as indicated by the great similarity to his works from Cesena and Pesaro.
The image of Our Lady of Sobieski belongs to a larger group of images referred to as the Comforter of the Afflicted. Mary is depicted in a half pose, with her head slightly bent over her right shoulder. Her head and shoulders are covered by a sapphire, voluminous cloak, under which a white veil covering her hair is partially visible. The subtle modeling of her face and characteristically folded hands was achieved with soft, invisible brushstrokes.
Attention is drawn to Mary’s gentle eyes. Some see this gaze as a supernatural phenomenon, which is expressed in the popular title – “Through the Eyes of the Conductor.” The impression of a vivid gaze was created by the painter on the basis of keen observation combined with virtuosity. The dark background is illuminated by a delicate halo. In 1750, the painting received a silver gilded “dress”, decorated in the mantle part with a pattern of flowers and leaves. The embossing in the metal repeats the outline of the robes, so now only Mary’s face and hands are visible.
In 1713, Pope Clement XI offered the painting to Alexander Sobieski, a Polish royal resident in Rome, as the Church’s thanksgiving for the relief of Vienna. After his death († 1714), the painting went to one of his brothers, Jakub, the lord of Oława. In 1750 its next owner became Count Michael von Althan of Międzylesie. He placed it in the main altar of the parish church.
In 1831, after the church’s decoration was changed, the painting was moved to the side wall of the chancel, setting it in a rich frame. In 1951, by decision of the church authorities, it was transferred to the cathedral of Wrocław. It was placed in a late Baroque side altar by the chancel pillar. St. John Paul II, during his pilgrimage to Wrocław on May 31, 1997, gave the image the title Mater Adorans – Mother of Adoration – and adorned it with a crown.