Medieval collection of the Museum of Decorative Arts in Berlin holds three important treasures connected with Poland.
When in 1392, the city of Lublin received a trade privilege from king Ladislaus II Jagiello, it developed into a trade centre, handling a large portion of commerce between Poland and Lithuania. Under the rule of the Jagiellon dynasty the Lublin castle enjoyed royal favor and frequent stays by members of the royal family. Two gold brooches in Berlin are tokens of the city’s prosperity thereafter.
The first one with a lady hawking, adorned with enamel, and set with a sapphire and pearls is 7.5 cm in diameter (inventory number F 1364). It came through the Albert Figdor’s collection in Vienna into the possession of the Berlin museum. According to the catalogue of the Figdor’s collection, it was found in the ruins of the Konopnica castle near Lublin. This information is not very accurate, since there was no castle in Konopnica and the only old ruins in the village are those of a church campanile from 1781, although the document from 1428 confirms the existence of the Saint Catherine’s church there. It is possible that the jewel was lost or hidden by its owner in the church. This owner could be certain Jan Chmielowski, tenant of the village of Konopnica, whose bad management led to a peasant revolt between 1615 and 1616 and who died during this time. He is noted for his taste for Eastern garments and as owner of 10 stylish ferezja (overcoat of eastern origin lined with fur) valued from 12 to 30 zlotys. Such coat, as well as another very popular delia, was pinned together or adorned with a clasp or brooch and had decorative fastening by buttons. Around that time Florian Ważyński (d. 1617) had in his ferezja coat “two large pearl buttons” (dwa wielkie perłowe guzy).
The second brooch with a shield bearer is also adorned with enamel and set with gemstones and pearls, a height of 6.5 cm and a width of 4.5 cm (inventory number F 3515). It was discovered as part of a gold hoard in 1836 in Abramowice, now part of Lublin, by men working in the courtyard of a manor house there and was dispersed among them. The owner managed to retrieve a gold brooch, three gold rings, two buckles and some ducats of king Matthias Corvinus. The brooch was sold to Mrs Maria Strojnowska owner of Dominów near Lublin and later acquired by the Berlin museum.
The first mention about the manor house in Abramowice comes from the Liber beneficiorum of Jan Długosz from 1393 and tells about the owner of the knight's farm - Sieciech (Sethegius), and then - Andrzej and Jan Klimuntowski of the Topór coat of arms. At the end of the 15th century, Abramowice belonged to Jan Ossoliński, who pledged his property for 250 Hungarian florins to the Lublin judge Mikołaj Pszonka, one of the founders of the Babin Republic. The current manor was built in 1790 for Ewa née Gałęzowska and her husband Stanisław Kossowski.
A note in Liber colloquiorum from 1447, that Mikołaj Michałowski, castellan of Kraków had moniliorum alias clasp et torqvis alias pendant with pearls (moniliorum alias zaponicze et torqvis alias noszenye de margaritis) of 700 florins worth, and the inventory of the state jewels from July 1607, which lists a clasp with a ruby rose adorned with pearls and other jewels, 9 different diamond clasps with Saint George, one with king David holding Goliath’s head and a clasp with Vulcan made of white enamel sitting on a three-facet cut diamond, confirms the taste for exquisite jewels in Poland from the medieval times.
Stylistically and due to technique of encrusted enamel used to decorate both brooches, they should be attributed to French or Burgundian workshops, although it cannot be excluded that at least one of them was produced locally.
Gold enamelled and gem-set brooch with a lady hawking found in Konopnica near Lublin by Anonymous from Burgundy or Paris, early 15th century, Museum of Decorative Arts in Berlin.
Gold gem-set brooch with a shield bearer found in Abramowice near Lublin by Anonymous, early 15th century, Museum of Decorative Arts in Berlin.
Detail of Annunciation, right outer panel of Crucifixion Triptych of the canon Peter von Wartenberg (Piotr z Sycowa) by Wilhelm Kalteysen, 1468, National Museum in Warsaw.
Brooch from the coronation mantle with a woman giving birth, fragment of tomb monument of King Casimir IV Jagiellon by Veit Stoss and Jörg Huber in Kraków, 1492-1496, Wawel Cathedral.
Detail of portrait of Prince Ladislaus Sigismund Vasa in Polish costume by circle of Peter Paul Rubens, 1620s, Pitti Palace in Florence.
Detail of portrait of Jakub Sobieski by Anonymous, ca. 1643, Lviv National Art Gallery.
The reliquary holding a capsule for the presentation of the relic in its pedestal with Saint George fighting the dragon is one of two similar vessels from Elbląg in Prussia, the city which come under the sovereignty of the Polish crown in 1454. Both containers were created in the third quarter of the 15th century, most probably around the year of 1475. The one in Berlin was found in a niche of the church of Saint George in Elbląg, where it had been walled in 1564 or in about 1520. It was discovered in 1652 and then given to the Epiphany church in Elbląg. In 1773 the superior of this church, Christian Gottlieb Wulff, acquired the reliquary for the sum of 55 thalers. In 1876 it was cleaned and restored by Elbląg’s goldsmith Emil Höpner for the current owner Ferdynand Kamiński, the court councilor of Elbląg. Two years later, in 1878, the vessel was offered by Albert Katz from Zgorzelec to the Berlin museum (inventory number 1878,618). Saint George on a base, holding a Hungarian-Turkish type sword, is 30.5 cm high and weighs 957 g. The second, similar container, today in Hamburg, was commissioned by the St. George’s Brotherhood in Elbląg for this saint's altar in Saint Nicholas church in Elbląg. In the second quarter of the 16th century it was put into storage in the City hall and discovered there in 1773 in the basement. Then sold on auction, it returned to the St. George’s Brotherhood in 1811 where it was kept untill 1945. In 1950 the second reliquary was given by Philipp F. Reemts to the Hamburg Museum of Art and Design (inventory number 1950.31). The Hamburg vessel is larger with 46 cm high and weighs 2370 g and is adorned coral, amethysts and rubies.
Just as later reliquary of Saint George created for the Brotherhood of Blackheads in Riga in 1507, the containers from Elbląg are attributed to the workshop of Bernt Notke in Lübeck or Israhel van Meckenem, whose print from mid-15th century could be a model for Elbląg works, although it cannot be excluded that all of them were created by local workshops.
Silver-gilt St. George's reliquary from Elbląg by Anonymous (Bernt Notke in Lübeck?), ca. 1475, Museum of Decorative Arts in Berlin.
Fragment of silver-gilt St. George's reliquary from Elbląg by Anonymous (Bernt Notke in Lübeck?), ca. 1475, Museum of Decorative Arts in Berlin.
Silver-gilt St. George's reliquary from Elbląg by Anonymous (Bernt Notke in Lübeck?), ca. 1480, Museum of Art and Design in Hamburg.
Main religious centers of Poland were also main centers for religious craftemanship in the country. Kraków with its status of coronation city and largest city of southern Poland had an adantage over other locations with the largest number of goldsmiths. A diploma issued in 1478 by Jan Rzeszowski, Bishop of Kraków, Jakub Dembiński, castellan and starost of Kraków, Zejfreth, mayor of Kraków, Karniowski and Jan Theschnar, Kraków's concillors to Jan Gloger, son of Mikołaj Gloger, aurifaber (goldsmith) of Kraków, recognizes Jan as a man of good fame and worthy of admission to the guild of goldsmiths. The document confirms that church had a profound influence on development of this craftsmanship in the country.
Reliquary cross of Andrzej Nosek of Rawicz coat of arms, Abbot of the Tyniec Abbey by Anonymous from Kraków, ca. 1480, Cathedral Treasury in Tarnów.
Fragment of gold reliquary for the head of Saint Stanislaus with selling of a village by Marcin Marciniec, 1504, Cathedral Museum at Wawel Hill in Kraków.
Silver crosier of Bishop Andrzej Krzycki by Anonymous from Kraków, 1527-1535, Płock Cathedral.
Portrait of Primate Bernard Maciejowski (1548-1608) by Anonymous from Kraków, ca. 1606, Franciscan Monastery in Kraków. The Primate was depicted holding silver legate's cross against silver altar set commissioned by him before 1601 in Italy and with a 15th century jewelled mitre of cardinal Frederick Jagiellon.
Reliquary of Saint Stanislaus founded by Bishop Marcin Szyszkowski by Anonymous from Poland, ca. 1616-1621, Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi.
Silver altar cross offered by Primate Wacław Leszczyński to the Gniezno Cathedral by Anonymous from Poland, first quarter of the 17th century, Archdiocesan Museum in Gniezno.
Gold chalice founded by Anna Alojza Chodkiewicz by Anonymous from Poland, ca. 1633, Treasury of the Lublin Archcathedral.
Fragment of a monstrance adorned with jewels from private donations by Anonymous from Lublin, ca. 1650, Dominican Monastery in Lublin.
Fragment of monstrance adorned with enamel by Anonymous from Poland, 1670s, Treasury of the Jasna Góra Monastery.
Monstrance with St. Benedict and St. Scholastica from the Tyniec Abbey by Anonymous from Lesser Poland, 1679, Cathedral Treasury in Tarnów.
Ciborium adorned with mother of pearl founded by guardian Stefan Opatkowski by Anonymous from Kraków, 1700, Franciscan Monastery in Kraków.
The reign of king John Albert was a period of gradual transition from gothic to renaissance art in Poland. Majority of preserved effigies of the king were most probably created posthumously, however the artists who worked for the Wawel Cathedral, beyond any doubt known the king personally.
Among the oldest is a portrait of the king as a donor kneeling before the crucified Christ in a group of sculptures known as the Triptych of John Albert. The triptych was commissioned to the king's funeral chapel and created by Stanisław Stwosz (Stanislaus Stoss) in 1501. This original retable was dismanteled in about 1758 and some elements were reused in a new altar for the Czartoryski Chapel of the Cathedral between 1873 and 1884.
Similar grafic effigy of the king was included in a graduale, a book collecting all the musical items of the Mass, which he founded in 1499 for the Cathedral. John Albert was depicted once again as donor, kneeling before the Apocalyptic Virgin in a miniature by Master Maciej z Drohiczyna (1484-1528).
The last of the effigies, and the most important, is the king's tomb effigy carved in red marble by Jörg Huber. Late gothic image of the king lying in state with all attributes of his power was crowned between 1502 and 1505 with a renaissance arch created by Francesco Fiorentino. The tomb was founded after king's death by his mother Elizabeth of Austria and his youngest brother Sigismund.
Altar from John Albert Chapel now in the Chartoryski Chapel of the Wawel Cathedral with original sculptures from the early 16th century, in the casing from the third quarter of the 19th century by Władysław Brzostowski.
Crucifixion with king John Albert as donor by Stanisław Stwosz, 1501, Chartoryski Chapel of the Wawel Cathedral.
Crucifixion with king John Albert as donor by Stanisław Stwosz, 1501, Chartoryski Chapel of the Wawel Cathedral.
Miniature in graduale of king John Albert by Master Maciej z Drohiczyna, 1499-1501, Archives of the Wawel Metropolitan Chapter in Kraków.
Tombstone of king John Albert by Jörg Huber, ca. 1502, John Albert Chapel of the Wawel Cathedral.
The Holy Trinity Triptych occupying the east wall of the Holy Cross Chapel of the Wawel Cathedral, was most probably created by Kraków's workshop of Jakub of Sącz, also known as the Master of the Holy Trinity Triptych or Master of the Choirs. It was established as a retable for the opposite Chapel of the Holy Trinity, also known as the Chapel of Queen Sophia of Halshany. The Queen, fourth and last wife of Jogaila of Lithuania (Ladislaus II Jagiello), most probably also sponsored the altar for her chapel which was finally accomplished in 1464, although built much earlier (between 1431-1433). The retable has a figure of the Risen Christ with two angels, St. Sophia with her daughters, patron saint of the Queen, and St. Anne at the top. The central group of the Holy Trinity is accompanied with statues of saints Dorothy, Margaret, Catherine and Barbara and two painted wings with choirs of apostles, martyrs, prophets and virgins on inner sides and conversion of St. Paul, vision of St. Eustace, St. George killing the dragon and St. Secundus crossing the river Po in outer sides. In 1616 or before the altar was moved to the current location in the Holy Cross Chapel.
Central part of the Holy Trinity Triptych by workshop of Jakub of Sącz, 1467, Holy Cross Chapel of the Wawel Cathedral in Kraków.
Statue of St. Dorothy from the Holy Trinity Triptych by workshop of Jakub of Sącz, 1467, Holy Cross Chapel of the Wawel Cathedral in Kraków.
Choir of the Holy Virgins from the Holy Trinity Triptych by workshop of Jakub of Sącz, 1467, Holy Cross Chapel of the Wawel Cathedral in Kraków.
St. Secundus crossing the river Po from the Holy Trinity Triptych by workshop of Jakub of Sącz, 1467, Holy Cross Chapel of the Wawel Cathedral in Kraków.
A work of high artistic merit is a trophy from the Great War with the Teutonic Order between 1409-1411. It was made for the Commander of Elbląg, Thile Dagister von Lorich. The diptych, a portable altar with relics, was taken by the brothers from the Elbląg monastery to the battle of Grunwald, where it fell into the hands of the Poles on July 15, 1410. Full-figured representation of the Crucifixion on the left panel is accompanied with the figures in two rows on the right panel depicting adoration of the Virgin and Child by the founder, recommended by Saints Barbara, Catherine, Margaret, Apostles Peter and Paul and Saint Dorothy. A gothic minuscule in the South German dialect on the outer side of the reliquary informs on the person of the founder, who was also depicted of the left panel as a donor before the Virgin. The outer side of the right panel depicts Man of Sorrows amid arma christi. The work was most probably created by a goldsmith William from Elbląg, who was frequently mentioned in the books of the Malbork Castle between 1399-1409.
Reliquary diptych of Thile von Lorich by Anonymous from Elbląg, 1388, Polish Army Museum in Warsaw.
Reliquary cross, so-called smaller, one of the most exquisite examples of Kraków's late gothic goldsmithery, was founded by Cardinal Frederick Jagiellon and executed by Kraków's goldsmith after 1493. The cross, together with so-called bigger cross was ceded to the Gniezno Cathedral in 1503 as a testament bequest of the cardinal, who was a bishop of Kraków and archbishop of Gniezno. During the World War II, it was confiscated by the Nazis and transported to Germany and restituted by the church authorities in 1958.
The piece was adorned with a pelican feeding its young with its own blood, a Christian symbol of selfsacrifice at the top, floral motifs and enammeled coat of arms of the cardinal in lower parts. The cross of gilt silver and enamel, cast, repoussed and engraved and measuring 53.4 × 2.7 × 20.1 cm (21 × 1.1 × 7.9 in) is on display in the Archdiocesan Museum in Gniezno (inventory number 273).
Reliquary cross of Cardinal Frederick Jagiellon by Kraków's goldsmith, after 1493, Archdiocesan Museum in Gniezno.
The sculpture ranks as one of the most significant examples of its type. It depicts the standing Virgin tenderly holding the infant Christ. The feminine beauty of Mary is allusion to her spiritual beauty, while the apple given to the Child is allusion to Mary as incarnation of the new Eve and Christ's sacrifice. With humble consent to the Incarnation she has redeem disobedience of Eve and Original Sin. Stylistic nature indicate Prague during the reign of King Wenceslas IV (1378-1419) as the most probale place of origin.
polychromy on gaize, c. 1390, 113 × 47.5 × 32 cm (44.5 × 18.7 × 12.6 in), inventory number Śr.8, on permanent display in the Gallery of Medieval Art, Muzeum Narodowe w Warszawie (MNW)
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