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Fourteenth century Nativity scenę figures in the convent of the Poor Clares at the Church of St. Andrew in Cracow. Some remarks on their style, dating, iconography and function

Marek Walczak, Instytut Historii Sztuki, Uniwersytet Jagielloński, ul. Grodzka 53, 31-001 Kraków


The 14th century sculpture from the area of the historical Lesser Poland does not arouse any considerable interest of the historians of art. The so-called Nativity scene figures from the convent of the order of Poor Clares in Cracow constitutes a representative example of the above. Even though they are widely known and mentioned both in the academic and popular publications, they have not eamed a modern monograph to date. The above-mentioned works were introduced to literature in 1902 by Julian Pagaczewski, and his formulations were acknowledged by later scholars.

In his view, the figures were sculpted with the endowment of Elisabeth of Poland while she was staying in Cracow as the regent in the years 1370—1375. The elements which are believed to affirm this, are first of all the tin letters E to be found under the crown which decorate the robes of Our Lady. A different opinion was presented by Stanisława Chadam-Bulanda in her unpublished MA thesis from 1970. When analysing the style of the sculptures, she moved the dating to the mid-14th century and associated them with the pilgrimage of Elisabeth of Poland to Aachen, which the queen made in 1357. The scholar also pointed out the fact that one of the folds of Our Ladys mantle was made of leather, and she linked this unusual technical treatment with Cologne. As a result, she indicated the group of the Rhenish representations of Mary to which the Cracovian Nativity scenę figures are particularly close. Unfortunately, none of the Polish scholars has accounted for the view of Albert Kutal, who in the Cracovian figures perceived the reflection of the style represented by the Master of Madonna of Michle. This thesis has recently been supported by Jaromir Homolka. Indeed, the same features of style may be found in the sculptures counted among the group of the works from the workshop of the anonymous artist known as the Master of Madonna of Michle, who most likely worked in Brno. Gerhard Schmidt, who discussed this group of works in detail, included him in the trend of the mannerist phenomena in the 14th century sculpture. With the help of the term preziózer used to describe their style, he emphasised their static character and the slenderness of the figurę, the linearity of the folds creating, especially on the edges of the robes, the zigzag, sharply defined lines, the commonly found fold in the shape of the inverted letter Y, as well as the ornamental treatment of the hair style. In terms of the physiognomy formation, one may add such features as a high forehead, shallow marked eyeballs, ovally arched eye brows and smali mouth. The hieratism, stiffness and slender proportions link the Nativity scenę figures with the majority of other works which constitute this group. In their unusually fiat formation, in the side views, they are particularly similar to the sculpture of the knight in St. Florian and to Christ in St. Marienthal. With regard to the shaping of the folds of the Cracovian works, it would be fruitless to search for the features of the soft style, which was characteristic of the sculpture of the third ąuarter of the 14th century. The stiffness and the sharp deflections of the folds as well as the mannerist Unear festoons at the sides also strictly correspond to those attested in the works of the Brno workshop in the years 1340-1350. Another example of concurrence is the arrangement of the drapery which takes the shape of the inverted letter Y (Germ. Falten dreistrahl). This is best visible in the sculpture from St. Florian, most likely the oldest in the whole group. It is also necessary to stress the similarity of the very characteristic treatment of triangular incisions in Our Ladys armpits, which is to be seen in the majority of works of the Brno master. Ali of the described figures of Mary have their head covered from the backside by a loosely shaped veil, often with a corrugated rim, attached to the top of the head with the fiat circlet of the crown. Morever, the sculpture of Dyśina has a crosswise folded scarf thrown upon the arms. A scarf of exactly the same type has been preserved, despite its having been sculpted over, on the rear part of the arms of the Cracovian figurę, and the irregular traces from the front and at the sides of the head allow for an assumption to be made that originally it was ornamented with a wavy veil as well. The stiff, a little awkward, hand gestures of the Cracovian sculptures find their equivalent in the rigidity of fflovements of the majority of those discussed, and especially the figure of Christ of St. Marienthal with characteristic large and ungainly hands. In the case of the Physiognomy of St. Joseph preserved in its original state, its similarity (both en face and in profile) to the head of the knight from St. Florian, and particularly to the sculpture in St. Marienthal is striking. In the latter case, similar is also the artistic class of the figures, the Austrian example being second to none and deserving the honorary title of the chef d'oeuvre within the whole workshop group. The hair-do with the symmetrical parting and the curls of the beard around the smali mouth are
very much alike. The only difference lies in the minutę, almost invisible, frowns on St. Josephs forehead. Since the foreheads of the sculptures from the workshop of the Master of Madonna of Michle are smooth, it is necessary to point to other works after Which this treatment may be developed. They are to be commonly found in the Rheinland, Franconia and Bavaria. A similar frown of the forehead appears there very freąuently and gives the sculptures a characteristic expression. They are to be found, for instance, in the famous statues of the apostles distributed on the pillars of the cathedral in Cologne.

In the light of the comments formulated above with regard to the style of the figures, the argument postulated by Pagaczewski that the letter E under the crown supports their dating to the years ca. 1370-1375 does not seem to be valid. The crown under the initial of the daughter of Ladislaus the Short would have much better corresponded with the period, had she been the ąueen of Hungary. Moreover, these letters manifest features of the Romanesque epigraphs, common in the first half of the 14th century. The letter E is enclosed in an arch shaped line with two circular eyes in the middle. The outer arches of the curve are oval and not sharpened as in the 2nd half of the 14th century. Thus, perhaps the Cracovian Nativity scene figures are a manifestation of a feminine piety, which, however, was not practised in the convent, but at the kings court in Buda. They appeared in the convent slightly later, where they have been fulfilling their tasks perfectly well up to the modern times, arousing the devotion to the Infant Jesus, His Mother and their earthly protector in consecutive generations of nuns. Slightly less convincing seems to be the hypothesis that the Nativity scenę figures were offered to the convent of the order of Poor Clares in Buda (or a different one in the Hungarian territory), and then, at the beginning of the 16th century they were taken away by the nuns who were fleeing the invasion. Unfortunately, due to the lack of written sources, none of these hypothesis can be demonstrated.

A separate analysis is reąuired with regard to the decorations in the form of metal appliąue work which seems to be significant for the proper interpretation of the ideological programme of the Cracovian sculptures. Vine leaves decorating the pedestal obviously relate their meaning to the Passion of Christ. Much more varied associations are brought about by the five-leaf pateras in the bottom part of the pedestal and on Marys robes. It is already Wilhelm Pinder who, when pubhshing his work about the mediaeval Pieta in 1922, paid attention to the earliest wood-carving executions of this subject decorated with large pateras on the pedestal. He unhesitatingly recognised this appliąue work to be a symbolic representation of rosae mysticae which refers to the host and to Christs wounds. If this is the case then they constitute
an interesting example of including the symbols of the Passion in the scenę from Christs childhood. As is known, such measures were freąuent in mediaeval literature and art.

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The polyptych of Lusina from the collection of the National Museum in Cracow revisited

Wojciech Walanus, Instytut Historii Sztuki, Uniwersytet Jagielloński, ul. Grodzka 53, 31-001 Kraków


The main concern of this article is a Late Gothic retable, known traditionally as the polyptych of Lusina, whose fragments are stored in the National Museum ln Cracow. Up to the mid-19th century the polyptych was located in the chapel within the oianor-house in Lusina near Cracow, whence it was moved to the collection of The Cracow Society of Sciences and Arts, and then to The Polish Academy of Sciences and Letters. Already before the World War II it was deposited in the National Museum in Cracow. During the war the central shrine of the retable disappeared along with the covering relief as well as one of the wing reliefs. The polyptych of Lusina was a pentaptych with two pairs of movable wings. The shrine and the inner sides of the inner wings were filled with polychromed and gilt reliefs, the remaing parts of the retable are decorated with painted panels. The analysis of archival photographs (Figs. 1-2) demonstrates that the polyptych had a superstructure, consisting, among others, of pinnacles which, having been disassembled, were secondarily placed within the shrine. Due to the absence of any sources, the reconstruction of the view of the unpreserved predella is impossible. The upper Part of the shrine was most likely covered by carved ornamental decoration, similarly as was the case with the wing reliefs. The partial incompatibility of the measurement of the wing reliefs and the frames noted in the earlier works which focused on the polyptych of Lusina allows for a conclusion to be made that the sculpted decoration of the retable and its architectural structure, integrally connected with the pictures, were created in two separate workshops, though with the same endowment. It is possible that the execution of the retable was turned over to the master painter, who in turn commissioned a certain sculpture workshop to do the reliefs.

The polyptych of Lusina is the only, even though partly, preserved pentaptych of Lesser Poland of two pairs of movable wings and the entirely carved decoration of the feast-day view (Festtagseite) which can be reconstructed. It is noteworthy that this type is extremely frequent in Silesia. Also the shape of the shrine - a simple chest with splayed side walls brings to mind the retables from this region. However, the formulation of conclusions concerning the origins of the polyptych of Lusina type is hindered by the state of the preserved retables from the area of Lesser Poland. Five reliefs which decorate the feast-day view of the polyptych — The Annunciation, The Adoration of the Shepherds, The Holy Family, The Dormition of Our Lady and The Legend of St. Theophilus ofAdana (Figs. 1-2, 5-8) were made in the same sculpture workshop. The middle relief, The Holy Family, however, was sculpted by a different hand than the remaining ones, which is attested by elear differences in the forms of the drapery. Strong links between the wing reliefs and the art of Veit Stoss have long been noted. They mainly consist in borrowing Stoss motifs of shaping the drapery. For example, the arrangement of Mary's mantle in The Adoration of the Shepherds (Fig. 6) echoes the style used by Stoss in the drawing of The Presentation of Christ from the year 1505 (Fig. 11). This sketch may be recognized as a design of an unpreserved engraving, which was used as a model by the author of the Lusina relief. Thus, we obtain the terminus a quo of its execution.

The original arrangement of Archangel Gabriel's wings in The Annunciation also makes it possible to presuppose the Stoss model, which is the carved Annunciation in St. Marys Altar in Cracow. There are many associations between the relief of Lusina and one of the panels stored in the Kestner-Museum in Hannover (Fig. 12) which are stylistically dependent on the late works of Stoss. The lost relief representing the history of St. Theophilus of Adana is an iconographic rarity in the Late Gothic art of Central Europę. Its composition may have been inspired by one of the woodcuts from Speculum Humanae Saluationis, published in Augsburg in 1473 (fol. 254; fig. 13). The scene in the shrine of the polyptych does not demonstrate such obvious stylistic links with the works of Veit Stoss as in the case with the wing reliefs. Indeed, the anonymous sculptor used one of engravings of the Master as a model (L. 6; fig.14), however, he relinąuished reproducing the abundant folding of Marys mantle represented there. The reliefs of the polyptych of Lusina were produced by one of the numerous sculpture workshops of Cracow, which were stylistically dependent on the art of Veit
Stoss. Their dating is, on the one hand, defined by the year 1505, and on the other, by the approximate time of completing the architectural structure of the retable and the painted panels. According to Jerzy Gadomski, the pictures were painted ca. 1510. It ia also approximately at that time that the reliefs of the Elbląg retable of The Adoration of the Magi by Schofstain (Fig. 15) were carved, in which some formal treatment of the reliefs of Lusina were used. It allows for an assumpion to be made that the sculptures of the polyptych of Lusina were carved in the second half of the first decade of the 16th century.

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Rzeźba śląska od XVI do XVIII wieku: komentarze do katalogu Romualda Nowaka

Adam Organisty, Instytut Historii Sztuki, Uniwersytet Jagielloński, ul. Grodzka 53, 31-001 Kraków

Artur Kolbiarz, Instytut Historii Sztuki, Uniwersytet im. Adama Mickiewicza Al. Niepodległości 4 61-874 Poznań


Even before the Second World War, the famous art historian Erich Wiese1 wrote the words of the mystic Angelus Silesius (1624-1677). When looking at the collections of the Silesian wooden sculpture of the National Museum in Wrocław / Breslau, presented in the inventory catalog of Romuald Nowak in 1994, these words become present again. The catalog contains numerous colored and black-and-white illustrations, which facilitate the reader's access to the artistically valuable sculptures and arouse the interest of a broad readership for these works of art. The detailed catalog notes are accompanied by a discussion of the question of the early modern sculpture in Lower Silesia and a detailed outline of the research literature. The bibliographic information and its abbreviations were separated tendered. In the catalog, the works of art are chronologically presented on the basis of a multitude of anonymous works (on page 39 the design rules of the catalog as well as the order of the details of the individual works are explained). The detailed information is evidence of a professional and proper processing. At the end of the book, the biographies of the individual artists are discussed in alphabetical order, taking into account previously unknown in the literature artists. In addition, the catalog is accompanied by an iconographic, location and personal index.

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Galician architecture in the period of autonomy. Side-notes on the book about the Architecture of Rzeszów

Andrzej Laskowski, Regionalny Ośrodek Studiów i Ochrony Środowiska Kulturowego w Rzeszowie, ul. Hetmańska 15, 35-045 Rzeszów


The point of departure for the author is a book by Barbara Tondos entitled Architektura Rzeszowa w okresie autonomii galicyjskiej (The Architecture of Rzeszów in the Period of Galician Autonomy) published in 1997 in Rzeszów. Even though since the 1960s the interests of the Polish historians of architecture have also covered the aspects of architecture of the 19th century, the state of the research is still not fully satisfying. Thorough monographs devoted to the architecture of Galicia in the period of its autonomy are very rare — it is possible to mention the works devoted to Cracow written by Jacek Purchla, Bielsko-Biała by Ewa Chojecka, Tarnów by Stanisław Potępa or Nowy Sącz by Zbigniew Beiersdorf and Bogusław Krasnowolski. This is the reason why the book concerning Rzeszów - a town of the size of Tarnów and Nowy Sącz - deserves a mention and a more extensive discussion. When working on her book, Barbara Tondos relied on the literaturę of the subject, historical works and memoirs produced to date, magazines from the period, the documentation concerning the preservation of historical monuments as well as the iconographic collection of the local District Museum. She also made use of the source materials from the State Archives in Rzeszów as well as the archives of Lviv, i.e. the Central Historical Archives of Ukraine and the Historical Archives of the District of Lviv. The use of the latter places the author among the first Polish historians of art who were able to take advantage of these on such a large scalę in their research. In her book the author assumed the chronological course of presentation and within this framework she focused on the features of the artistic output of the persons who influenced the shape of the urban buildings. On this occasion she paid a particular attention to the accomplishments which are important for Rzeszów, i.e. the reconstruction of the townhall, the building of the edifice of the Sokół Gymnastic Society and the rebuilding of the castle, whose authorship still remains a matter of dispute. It needs to be stated that in practice none of the builders who were active in the initial period of the Galician autonomy in Rzeszów distinguished himself more than the others. The conservative burghers of Rzeszów did not have high demands, especially with regard to the aesthetic aspect of the commissioned works. The wooden architecture was fairly slowly replaced by brick buildings. The situation began to change the moment the relevant legał regulations began to apply. The town started to change its image in a more definite manner when the architects of a more individualised artistic approach appeared in Rzeszów. The individualisation was enhanced by the new trends and tendencies visible in the Galician architecture of the 1890s. Undoubtedly, the artists who could be counted among the individualities on the scalę of the town and the nearest region are such architects as Piotr Emilewicz, Kazimierz Hołubowicz, Tadeusz M. Tekielski, Ludwik Holzer and Izaak Apperman. The accomplishments of Piotr Emilewicz make it possible to perceive him as an artistic follower of the concepts propagated in architecture by Teodor Talowski. Allusions to Talowskis works were also freąuently found in the case of Taduesz M. Tekielski, who was able to express himself in an exquisite manner in small-scale, private projects, especially with respect to the villa architecture. Emphasised should also be the superb sense of historical context which characterised Kazimierz Hołubowicz. As was noted by Jadwiga Szymczak-Hoff a number of years ago, the cultural revival made a very slow progress in Rzeszów, and it is in fact in the 1880s only that the former stagnation began to be overcome in the Galician province. With respect to the history of the Rzeszów architecture, it seems justified to claim that the revival took place much later, in the second half of the 1890s, along with the appearance of architects of such calibre as Tadeusz Stryjeński, Zygmunt Hendel or Franciszek Skowron in the town. It was also due to the fact that some architects of ambitions exceeding the province area, i.e. the already mentioned Piotr Emilewicz and Kazimierz Hołubowicz, who for years constituted the driving force of the architectural circles, settled in the town. The work of the newcomers, though infreąuent, concerned the objects of large prestige and dominating role in the town landscape - the seats of the authorities (the edifice of the District Council, the townhall, the castle-court and the prison) as well as public buildings (banks, temples). The fact that the works of key importance in the district capital were turned over to the persons from outside the town brutally exposes the weakness of the local circles, who were only left with the complementing of the urban composition with dwelling-houses or providing their services in the area of the neighbouring districts, mainly in the case of sacral architecture (as was the case with Franciszek Stążkiewicz). It is interesting that the dominating group among the newcomers were the architects who arrived from Cracow, it was, on the other hand, infrequent to find the designers from Lviv working in Rzeszów. When they appeared in Rzeszów, the latter worked here either in their official capacity (as probably Franciszek Skowron) or their connection with Lviv concerned only the years of studies or the early period of their work (as was the case with Jan Peroś). Even though Cracow did not possess a high school of architecture, it was the birth place, or the seat of education or work, of a numerous group of architects who were later active in Rzeszów, Feliks P. Wąsowicz, Wiktor Buczaniewicz, Piotr Emilewicz, or Tadeusz M. Tekielski, among others, which was not without significance for their activity. The links of the local circles with Lviv were much weaker - at the present stage of research, such links may be mentioned only in the case of Jakub Holzer. However, this issue reąuires further investigation. Equally rare were the realisations which were the works of architects or builders from the neighbouring centres of regional significance, as was the case with Tarnów or Przemyśl. This situation may have resulted from the fact that the town was dominated by investors of Jewish background, who most freąuently used the services of their own designers and building contractors.

The links of the local architects with the European centres and their education system were weak. The affinity with Yienna may be identified only in the case of  Jakub Holzer and Kazimierz Hołubowicz; of Viennese origin was also Izaak Apperman, while Karol S. and Ludwik Holzer were connected with Munich. It demonstrates that the education in those towns could be afforded only by the descendants of wealthy families - the Rzeszów family of the Holzers was one of them. The investigation in the architecture of Rzeszów provides the ground on which to consider the extent of the territorial outreach of the activity of the architects who represented two leading Galician circles - that of Cracow and that of Lviv. It appears that the Cracow group was far more expansive, which, among others, is attested by numerous projects, the moving of the Cracovian architects to Lviv (Teodor Talowski, Jan Sas-Zubrzycki) or the activity of Filip Pokutyński, Tomasz Pryłiński, Tadeusz Stryjeński or Jan Sas-Zubrzycki which was planned on a wide scalę of the whole province and focused far east from Cracow. The architects who were permanently associated with Lviv, on the other hand, hardly ever worked in Cracow (most often as participants of competitions), and fairly seldom got involved in the provincial works far west from the capital city (as e.g. Julian Zachariewicz in Zarzecze and Tarnów, Jan Lewiński in Krosno, Dionizy Krzyczkowski in Rzeszów, Łańcut and Jasło, Michał Łużecki in Jasło). Much more freąuent were the cases in which the area between Cracow and Lviv was the field of work of the architects who were educated at the Lviv Polytechnics, though they did not settle down in the capital city for much longer, as e.g. Stanisław Majerski in Przemyśl, Jan Peroś in Nowy Sącz, or Emanuel Jarymowicz in Jasło. This was understandable due to the fact that at that time the Lviv Polytechnics possessed exclusive rights in terms of educating architects on the high school level. On the other hand, the bustling activity of the Cracow architects in the country may be explained on the ground of the limitations which, in the process of the Cracow development, stemmed from the status of the fortress that the city obtained and the role of the center of Polishness which Cracow fulfilled by way of attracting the potential multitude of often wealthy investors from the province who built a lot, not only in Kraków, but also in their estates scattered all over Gahcia.

What is the characteristics of the architecture which was created in the autonomous Rzeszów? Initially, next to the numerous wooden buildings, the dominant elements were the designs which stylistically related to Classicism popular in Rzeszów in the previous period, or the realisations which had stemmed from the concepts of Durand. Relatively late, around the year 1880, the projects kept in the Rundbogenstil manner appeared. With time, the dominating role was assumed by Neo-Renaissance, which is clearly visible in the town till today. This trend must have matched the taste of the conservative burghers, since other stylistic tendencies are represented in Rzeszów relatively seldom. Among the rare cases are the Neo-Baroque, Neo-Mannerist and Neo-Gothic constructions. Art nouueau, which usually involved covering the traditional scheme of the facade with a rich decoration kept in the style of Historicism and art nouveau, was implemented in Rzeszów with relative difficulty. Infreąuent were the works whose decorations were exclusively art nouueau in style. At the tum of the era of autonomy, on the other hand, edifices in the style of historicising Modernism began to appear, being relatively close to the Cracovian works from the period. Dominant became buildings with plastered facades. Occasionally, houses with unplastered fronts and without redundant decorations were erected which fulfilled the postulate of the truth of the materiał. A much more typical phenomenon was to combine the ground floor which showed rustication or was  decorated with horizontal stripes of plaster with the upper storeys made of brick, where the decoration concentrated mainly around the window and door openings. At times, on the facades of the Rzeszów tenement-houses the sgraffito decoration appeared. It seems that Rzeszów did not manifest social acceptance for excessive decorations and the fanciful ornaments. It was determined not so much by the lack of financial means, but by the sentiment for the local tradition which demanded that the architects keep moderation and restraint. It appears necessary to agree with Barbara Tondoss opinion that the local architects usually did not leave traces of any deeper artistic interests while the specific character of Rzeszów is significantly determined by the style of building which stemmed from the basie needs of its inhabitants. It seems that, in spite of a number of really interesting designs, the Rzeszów architecture which arose in the period of Galician autonomy does not bear the comparison with the architecture of the already investigated towns of Galicia of comparable size, like Nowy Sącz and Tarnów. The book by Barbara Tondos leaves a certain feeling of insufficiency when it concerns the elucidation of the social, legał, and predominantly, the economic aspects which are inseparably linked with the architectural activity. The reader who searches for certain information about the buildings connected with the stay of nearly 3000 members of the military crew (according to the data of 1910) in Rzeszów will not find out much about this or about the industrial architecture, which is indeed weakly represented in the autonomous Rzeszów, but it is still worth attention.

A deficiency of the book is the very curt treatment of the phenomena which took place on the urban level in the period which preceded the authors discussion and an almost entire omission of the town-planning issues. These deficiencies are also connected with the lack of any plan included in this book which would allow the reader to find a better orientation in the town planning and or it would at least make it possible to localise the buildings described in the text. An important part of the book by Barbara Tondos is the catalogue entitled Builders, architects, buildings attached at the end of the publication. However, it was prepared without the due aceuracy and consistency with the observation of the once accepted criteria. Its weak side is also a too generał signalhng of the information sources. It is noteworthy that the book includes abstracts in foreign languages (in English and German) as well as a considerable number of illustrations, among those nearly forty which were found in the archives of the Rzeszów buildings projects, as well as a few (perhaps too few?) old photographs. Sadly, the illustrations are not always of good quality. This underdeveloped illustrative part, as well as numerous proof-reading mistakes do not seem to give credit to the publisher, who, due to his deficiencies, diminished the value of the book. This comment concerns also the distribution of the book, which makes it almost entirely unavailable on the publishing market.

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Ewa Łużyniecka In response

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Chronicle of the Jagiellonian University Institute of Art History for the year 2000

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