Artibus et Historiae no. 71 (XXXVI)

2015, ISSN 0391-9064

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KRZYSZTOF J. CZYŻEWSKI and MAREK WALCZAK - The Monuments with Portrait Busts of the Bishops of Cracow: On the History of the Reception of Roman Baroque Models of Sepulchral Art in Poland (Bernini – Algardi – Rossi) (pp. 181-223)

In the period following the Council of Trent, iconographic formulas used in sepulchral art were undergoing major transformations. These developments were also reflected in the art of the Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, two countries joined together by a political union into one state, governed by an exceptional political system and known as the Commonwealth of Both Nations. The bishopric see of Cracow – until the beginning of the seventeenth century, a capital city and royal residence – formally ranked third in the hierarchic system of Polish dioceses, after the metropolitan sees of Gniezno and Lvov. In reality, however, the bishops of Cracow, thanks to their enormous wealth, were second only to the archbishops of Gniezno. And it is in Cracow that a group of monuments with portrait busts of local bishops, dating from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, unparalleled in Central Europe, has survived. They are a manifest testimony to the ambitions of the hierarchs who deliberately employed artistic solutions derived from the papal Rome to emphasise their own prestige. Some of the memorials count among the earliest and most accomplished examples outside Rome of the assimilation of the ‘realist revolution’ in portrait sculpture developed in the circle of Gianlorenzo Bernini. Yet, so far they have not been given their due in the literature on European Baroque sculpture.

The paper examines mainly four monuments of Cracow bishops: Marcin Szyszkowski, Piotr Gembicki, Bishop Jan Małachowski and Kazimierz Łubieński, set up in a unique and meaningful arrangement in the crossing of Cracow Cathedral around the altar housing the relics of St Stanislaus, Poland’s major patron saint. All of these aedicular structures bear portrait busts of the hierarchs which are a telling testimony to Roman influences in Cracow sculpture of the period, some of them being the works of Italian artists, Giovanni Battista Gisleni and Giovanni Francesco de’ Rossi, called La Vecchietta. The paper discusses the portrait busts against a broad background of the art of the Commonwealth of Both Nations and the developments in Roman sculpture of the period, pointing to particular examples that may have served as sources of inspiration for the Cracow portrait busts.

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