The story goes that Nikola Zrinski requested his people to move inside the city gates in order to protect them from the oncoming Turkish forces, only to ultimately lose his life once they eventually broke into the settlement. His wife would take the tough decision to order the city to be burned to the ground once the invading army were inside in order to kill as many of them as possible, thus restricting their ability to attack other parts of the country. This painting from 1914 therefore represents sacrifice for the greater good, and is therefore seen by Mucha as being entirely deserving of being immortalised within this series of paintings. The actual composition features the men about to charge in and overcome the remaining forces, whilst the inhabitants attempt to hide. This is one of the brighter paintings of the series, featuring a strong use of yellow and orange tones throughout.
The painting stretches to over eight metres in width and six metres in height, making it one of the largest artworks in the series. The smaller ones, by contrast, would be just about half the size of this. Mucha takes advantage of the huge nature of this canvas to insert an extraordinary level of detail, helping us to understand why the overall project took around two decades in total to complete. There are endless number of figures within this lively artwork, helping to create an atmosphere of panic and fear for those slavs who were in grave danger. It is hard to imagine the feelings of anxiety that would have been experienced from seeing a rival army on your doorstep for several weeks - it would take the Turks over two weeks to finally breakthrough the defences and by that stage the Slavs were left defenceless, other than for this late act of defiance in order to help protect other parts of the realm.
The Slav Epic series captures many notable battles across the twenty paintings, though there is also room for other social commentary, such as the growth and protection of the local language as well as the desire to interpret Catholicism in their own manner, rather than as dictated by Rome. There is so much to learn here from the 20 paintings, but we must not forget the extraordinary technical achievement of Mucha in putting these together, which sometimes can be lost by simply viewing digital images of the paintings. Those fortunate enough to see these huge murals in person will be overcome with excitement and start to understand why these works are considered by many to have been the biggest achievement of this artist's career.