Uwagi o znaczeniu tzw. Pięknych Madonn w sztuce i religijności państwa zakonnego w Prusach

Monika Jakubek-Raczkowska

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.12775/AUNC_ZiK.2011.034


The so-called Beautiful Madonnas belong among the most interesting and the most complex groups in gothic sculpture, being still subject to vivid discussions – despite the apparent depletion of the discourse. Time and again new attempts of defining those sculptures emerge, both in terms of their message and their visual structure; new attempts to approach their systematics and attribution. Having a crucial significance for the artistic evolution of Central Europe at the dawn of 15th century, they became an axis of one of more important discussions in Mediaeval studies of that region: the dispute on the genesis of International Style, which keeps reappearing and arising controversies. In Prussia the circle of Beautiful Madonnas has been represented by three figures – the missing Beautiful Madonna on the Moses-console from St. John’s church in Toruń, the Gdańsk Beautiful Madonna in the Rosary Retable in Holy Virgin Church in Gdańsk and located in the same church Virgin with The Child in the Priestly Brotherhood Retable. Despite the previously proposed systematics, none of them seems to be of local creation in the land of former Teutonic State. It also seems that there is no direct relation between them. In this paper a question is being asked about artistic significance of those sculpture for the art of the region (the creativity of local environment) and about their functional sense. After the period of numerous polemics – especially in context of Clasen’s work – presently it is accepted that Beautiful Madonnas are the efflorescence of the experience of Bohemian art. The figure from Toruń not only originated from the Bohemian tradition (which had been repeatedly underlined), but most probably it had been made in one of Prague workshops and found its way to Prussia by import. It has been confirmed by its typological isolation (the lack of similar images of Virgin Mary, that would suggest assimilation of the formula) and artistic alienation in the art of the region. One can not find any justification for most of the so far attributions, relating other eminent works to the Toruń master: Christ in Gethsemane made of marly limestone (Planer Kalkstein) is an import from Prague, as well as a different in form, missing Mary of Good Hope. Also the attribution of a relief Assumption of Mary Magdalene does not seem convincing. The circle of the supposed followers of the master is also disputable. One can not find justification especially for the proposal to relate much younger (ca. 1430) figure of the so-called Gdańsk Beautiful Madonna with the one from Toruń. The Gdańsk sculpture originates from different, French tradition and reveals North-Netherland workshop affiliations (the Ankeveen Madonna). Due to its large dimensions one can assume, that is was made on site. Perhaps the same workshop produced also the so far omitted, partly damaged Madonna in the Frombork Cathedral, that underwent conservation treatment in 2008-2009. It is hard to determine, whether the Netherland master brought to Gdańsk an already formed topos of western art, or whether he worked it out in Gdańsk (in relation with the model of Beautiful Madonna from Toruń). The further development of his art took place most probably not in Pomerania, but in the North Netherlands. And finally the sculpture in the Holy Virgin Brotherhood Retable – another example of an import from Prague, in terms of form reaching for the patterns of late 14th century, in terms of type belonging to the times after 1400. Only this one became a subject of local reception, most probably due to its cult (indulgence) function and the miraculous air. Thus Prussian Beautiful Madonnas were imports from abroad, and not the efflorescence of local artistic tendencies. As a typological and stylistic group they remained an isolated phenomenon in Orderly State. They emerged in a specific religious climate, on the verge of traditional cult of Virgin Mary and devotio moderna, giving witness to the transformations of religious life in Prussia. However, since their artistic impact – as a type, a model, a stylistic source – was not very big, the question of their real significance as a testimony of religious devotion remains open.

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