Patron Augusts Dombrovskis’ Bequest

The creation of a valuable and diverse museum collection developed over a long period of time with the community’s participation. The State Museum of Art's old inventory book provides evidence, not only of purchases made, but also about valuable bequests from individuals which are now the pride of the Latvian National Museum of Art and are frequently exhibited in the permanent exposition. Adding to the collection of Latvian art in this way, Marija Grosvalde bequeathed the painting Three Oriantal Women (1919) by her son Jāzeps Grosvalds, who had died young. In a similar way Līze Pērle bequeathed Rūdolfs Pērle’s painting The Sun at Dusk (1916), while Valmiera doctor Georgs Apinis presented Teodors Ūders’ charcoal drawings in his will. A special story comes with a bequest made by patron Augusts Dombrovskis.

Latvian painter Janis Rozentāls’ (1866–1916) symbolic painting Black Serpent Grinding Flour (1903) was received into the State Museum of Art’s collection with an entry in the inventory book on 13th December 1923. The Latvian State Archive has preserved a written document, unnoticed in the research of our art history. This well-known work was bequeathed to the newly established art repository by the notable Latvian industrialist, community activist and patron of culture, Augusts Dombrovskis (1845–1927) with the document. The wish of this promoter of national self-confidence was expressed in a message addressed to the museum director, sculptor Burkards Dzenis:


“To the Curator of the State Museum

By this, I inform you that I deliver Janis Rozentāls’ painting, which we composed together: Black Serpent Grinding Flour, to the State Museum, with the proviso that the folk song: “The black serpent ground flour, on a rock in the middle of the sea, to be eaten by those masters, who made us work at night.” must be written on the painting. Please inform me of the expenses which will arise from the inscription and for transportation from St. Petersburg so that these can be reimbursed. I gave artist Mr. G. Šķilters instructions on what the inscription should be like. Please observe these.

With the greatest respect

                                     Augusts Dombrovskis”*

1. XII.1923.         


Cultural circles congratulated this step by Mīlgrāvis timber industrialist Dombrovskis as an inspiring example of patronage. Through his support for Rozentāls, the wealthy philanthropist was one of the first to purchase the artist’s works at the beginning of his career, purchasing among them the painting later bequeathed to the museum as well. The addition on the frame, entrusted to sculptor Gustavs Šķilters, was designed to highlight the content of Rozentāls’ composition found in the symbolism of folklore, with Dombrovskis also mentioning his taking part in the composition.


* LSA, 1659. f., 1. apr., 34. l., pg. 220.