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Creative work

J. Rustem’s creative work encompasses pictures of different genres, including mythological and religious topics, domestic scenes and landscapes. Nevertheless he was predominantly a portraitist. An unanticipated sequence of events meant that nearly all creative work not comprising portraits was lost and only two pictures survived (“Diana’s Rest” and “St. John the Baptist”). We only know the following J. Rustem compositions from descriptions: “A Turkish Man on a Horse” (1791), “Jewish Philosopher” (1827), “Birth of Venus”, “Asclepius, Hygeia and Telesphorus”, “The Lost Son”, etc.

Neither did all portraits by J. Rustem survive. According to his contemporaries, Rustem painted portraits at many Lithuanian estates. In Dr. Rūta Janonienė’s monograph (Jan Rustem, Vilnius Academy of Art, 1999), 75 remaining portraits by J. Rustem are registered, along with more than 130 descriptions of the portraits in literature, photos, copies by the artist’s followers, engravings and lithographs. The portraits perpetuates the most famous people who lived in Vilnius in the first half of the 19th century and include university professors, the intelligentsia, representatives of the Lithuanian nobility, friends and the artist’s family members. Self-portraits are also abundant.

Sketches have an important place in J. Rustem’s creative work. The artist used them to record daily life in Vilnius and its suburbs, picturing people including craftsmen, traders, Jewish people, peasants, travelling acrobats and jugglers.

Only a small part of J. Rustem’s creative work survived. A few dozen sketches are known from graphics produced by his followers, including “Souvenir pittoresque des petits ouvrages de J. Rustem” by Kazimierz Bachmatowicz.

J. Rustem created decorations for amateur performances at estates in the province and salons in Vilnius and contributed to professional theatre in Vilnius. He also created decorations for different festivities and “tableaux vivants”.