A Ruthenian Lyrist


This signed oil sketch by the illustrator and painter Sigismund Ajdukiewicz (1861–1917) depicts a scene from Ruthenia, a region located south of the Carpathian Mountains in present-day Ukraine, which was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and ruled by Hungary until 1918. Ajdukiewicz, also known by his Polish name Zygmunt Ajdukiewicz and by its Austrian variant, Sigismund von Ajdukiewicz, was born in Witkowice (present-day Poland). As a young man he studied art at the Vienna Academy and in Munich. From 1885 until the end of his life, he lived and worked in Vienna, where he was known for his portraits, genre scenes, and historical paintings. The sketch is part of the original artwork for the Kronprinzenwerk (The crown prince’s work), the short name for a 24-volume illustrated encyclopedia of all the Crown lands and peoples of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy. It was published in 1886–1902 under the title Die österreichisch-ungarische Monarchie in Wort und Bild (The Austro-Hungarian monarchy in word and picture) in both German and Hungarian. The project was initiated by Rudolf, Crown Prince of Austria, and coordinated by him until his death in 1889. It reflects his faith in liberalism, science, and progress. Rudolf’s vision was to depict without partiality and as equal all peoples and ethnographic groups of the monarchy.

Date Created

Subject Date

Title in Original Language

Ein ruthenischer Leierspieler

Type of Item

Physical Description

Oil sketch in gray-blue tones with white heightening


  • The original drawings that served as a basis for the illustrations of the Austrian (“Cisleithanian”) part of the “Kronprinzenwerk” were incorporated as a special collection into the private library of the Habsburg family after the publication of the last volume of the encyclopedia in Vienna 1902. The collection is preserved as a treasure in the Picture Archives Department of the Austrian National Library. It consists of 2548 brush, pen, and pencil drawings by more than 200 artists. The pictures of landscapes, of monuments and of folkloristic and economic themes from areas from Tyrol to Bukovina are of high scientific and artistic value. They are a unique source on the cultural history of the Crown lands and their peoples at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century and the last comprehensive pictorial self-representation of the multi-ethnic empire before its collapse.

Last updated: September 18, 2015