Malowidła artysty gdańskiego Johanna Kriega w Pelplinie

Jacek Tylicki



The paper deals with an artist active in the Baltic city (c. 1590-1643/47) about whom relatively little is known both with regard to his biography and oeuvre. While correcting some data related to the first topic, namely place of birth (Spickendorf close to Magdeburg), identity of wife (Dorothea Scheder) and original religious affiliation (Calvinist), the author concentrates on the issue of paintings executed by the master, which, although much praised in an 18th century manuscript, remain practically unidentified. There exist thirty one signed and attributed drawings, some of which are now lost, but the only painterly works confirmed by sources are five small emblematic depictions from 1640. These decorate the altar of St. Jacob the Elder in ex-Cistercian church in Pelplin, now cathedral, around thirty miles south of Gdańsk; the artist executed them after he converted to Roman Catholicism and joined the monastery following the death of his wife in 1632.
The apparent lack of paintings by Krieg in comparison with a considerable number of extant drawings brought on several attempts at attributions, persisting in part, none of which seems plausible, however. The present text proposes the authorship of Krieg with regard to an ensemble of paintings in the Pelplin cathedral church, hitherto hardly noticed in literature, which can be dated to c. 1640. Executed on the backs of late medieval church stalls, they are only partially visible today, and were in part removed recently to the former summer refectory of the convent. The set consists of an upper row of religious pictures illustrating the Creed and a lower row of emblematic paintings commenting on them. Especially the latter works, containing partly allegorical and mythological elements, are well comparable both in figure and landscape details to drawings by Krieg, but also to the few emblematic pictures in nearby altar. Most similarities occur in the southern row of paintings on the stalls, probably executed by Krieg personally. The northern row, where the affinities are fewer, was apparently finished by another hand, while pictures representing Evangelists on the backs of two further, independent stalls originally used by officers of the Cistercian convent, were probably made by Krieg jointly with an apprentice. Four modest emblematic depictions – also dated approximately 1640 – on the altar of St. Ursula in Pelplin cathedral church, complete the number of paintings, which can for now be given to the Gdańsk artist turned lay brother in the monastery.

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