Portrait of Barbara Radziwiłłowa. Herszek Lejbowicz. Copper engraving. From Icones familiae ducalis Radivillianae (Portraits of the Ducal Radziwiłł Family), 1758. (Biblioteka Narodowa, Warsaw)

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Lejbowicz, Herszek

Eighteenth-century Lithuanian artist and engraver. Herszek Lejbowicz seems to have been born in Sokal, a small settlement not far from Minsk, sometime in the 1720s or 1730s. Nothing is known of his childhood years or education. He followed in the footsteps of his father, Lejb Zyskielowicz, working as a coppersmith and engraver. In the spring of 1747, Michał Kazimierz Radziwiłł invited father and son to his palace at Nieśwież to prepare an album of family portraits.


The project required Lejbowicz to engrave copies of portraits hanging in the family gallery. A formal contract to prepare 90 plates for a fee of three and a half czerwone zlote each was signed on 16 October 1747. The book was eventually published as Icones familiae ducalis Radivillianae (Portraits of the Ducal Radziwiłł Family; 1758). In addition to the album, Lejbowicz created other works for the Radziwiłł family, including a map of the Bernardine province of Lithuania, the design of ex libris inserts for Michał Kazimierz’s library, a Radziwiłł crest for inclusion in a special book titled Artykuly wojenne (Articles of War; 1754), and a monogram design for Anna Radziwiłłowa.


One of a number of artists of Jewish origin who worked for the Radziwiłłs (the others included Lejbowicz’s father; a jeweler named Lejb Kamieniarz; and a convert, Ksawery Dominik Heski), Lejbowicz seems to have had no problem overcoming both the halakhic prohibition on making graven images and the taboo on visiting Christian places of worship: for example, he made a lithograph of the interior of the Jesuit Church in Nieśwież.


Lejbowicz worked for Radziwiłł for nearly 15 years, enjoying his patron’s protection in the form of, among other things, tax breaks from the Jewish community of Nieśwież. In late 1748, he married Szejna Lejbowa, the daughter of Lejb Kamieniarz. They had at least one son, David. After Michał Kazimierz’s death in 1762, outstanding debts to Lejbowicz were not paid; his son continued to request them as late as 1805. Lejbowicz himself seems to have died some time after 1786.


Copies of Icones familiae ducalis Radivillianae and Lejbowicz’s plates were transferred to Saint Petersburg following the first partition of Poland; only parts were returned to Poland after the Treaty of Riga in 1922. Today, 72 plates may be found in the National Library in Warsaw. Though his work was unsophisticated, Lejbowicz is still regarded as one of the leading practitioners of the engraver’s art in eighteenth-century Poland–Lithuania.

Suggested Reading

Hanna Widacka, “Działalność Hirsza Leybowicza i innych rytowników na dworze nieświeskim Móichała kazimierza Radziwiłła ‘Rybenki’ w swietle badań archiwalnych,” Biuletyn historii sztuki 39 (1977): 62–72.

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