Antoni Niewiarowski (1769–1843) was an eminent member of the Franciscan Order, the Provincial of the Lithuanian Conventual Franciscans' Province, the Superior of the Vilnius Conventual Franciscans, and a historian of the Franciscan Order. When back in 1832 Russian authorities gave orders to close the Franciscan monastery in Valkininkai and sent friars to Kaunas, he at the time was the superior of the monastery. Antoni Niewiarowski was elected and perpetually re-elected as a member of the Franciscan Definitorium until the very end of his life. His remains were buried in Vilnius.
The Manuscripts Division of VU Library has in its holdings a voluminous study (736 pages) on the history of the Lithuanian Conventual Franciscans' Province prepared by Antoni Niewiarowski (Dzieje Prowincyi Zakonney Litewskiey Franciszkanow, czyli Braci Mnieyszych Konwentuałow, w krotkiey treszci zebrane: [1686–1843], F3-291). It is a classical historical source, to which historians of the Church of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the Franciscan Order as well as researchers of the Church art often refer to in their research.
This manuscript contains not only historical data, but also some previously not researched artefacts of printing and art that are shrouded in mystery. The opening page of the manuscript book is decorated by a half-figure portrait of Antoni Niewiarowski – a minor piece of art, or a miniature (15,6×12,3 cm) painted in watercolour; it portrays the author of the manuscript dressed in black habit and holding a book with green covers in his hands; his right-hand finger is adorned with a ring, and his thoughtful look shows spiritual meditation. Below the portrait is an inscription: Xiądz Antoni Niewiarowski b. Prwł mpp. pisarz Dziejow Prowincyi franciszkanow za panowania Rossyi od utwierdzenia Litewskiey Prowincyi – 16?? ... (Priest Antoni Niewiarowski, former provincial, manu propria, writer of the history of the Franciscans' Province under the Russian rule and starting from the acknowledgement of the Lithuanian Province – 16?? ...[a part of the inscription has been cut]). The words b[ywszy] Pr[o]w[incja] (former provincial) prove that the portrait was painted after 1827.
The mystery lies on the left side of the oval frame – a barely visible artist’s signature (no more than 1 mm in width) that has not been deciphered yet. We would appreciate your help in establishing the authorship of this unique heritage object.
Dr. Ina Kažuro