Stained glass in Poland in the first half of the 19th century[1]

Tomasz Szybisty

Cracow, Uniwersytet Jagielloński


In studies on the art of the past two hundred years there is a widespread view that stained glass windows reappeared in Poland after 1850, i.e. almost a hundred years later than in Western Europe, where interest in coloured glazing had been growing since mid-eighteenth century. The paper challenges that opinion and is aimed at preliminary understanding of the issues concerning stained glass of the first half of the nineteenth century in the Polish territories.

A direct impact on the growth of interest in stained glass in Poland in the early decades of the nineteenth century was exerted by a fashion for the Middle Ages, originating in England and widespread especially in the circles of the aristocracy. It is in this context that one should locate the extraordinary collection of ancient stained glass windows gathered in Puławy by Izabela Czartoryska of the Fleming family, and the coloured glass of the first neo-Gothic interiors, e.g. in the chapel in the palace of the Bishops of Kraków, decorated at the time of Bishop Woronicz, the Gothic House in Puławy, the palace of Ludwik Pac in Dowspuda and the chapel of Anna Dunin-Wąsowiczowa in Kraków’s cathedral, with a stained glass window imported from the  studio of Bertini and Brenta in Milan. Presentation of the beginnings of the stained glass revival in Poland is completed by stained glass technologies other than the classic ones and by colourful window glazing which was sometimes made instead of the figurative stained glass.

keywords: stained glass, Poland, 19th century, neo-Gothicism


In the research covering the last two centuries, it is a repeated opinion that stained glass reappeared in Poland only after 1850.[1] This is around a hundred years later than in Western Europe, where one can observe intensified interest in colourful glazing dating from as early as the mid-18th century.[2] This article aims to challenge this common opinion, and to outline the problems in the subject of stained glass in Poland of the first half of the 19th century.

The revival of stained glass art was caused directly by both the English-born fascination with the Middle Ages, and the development of neo-Gothicism. The stained glass decorations of the villa at Strawberry Hill, England, in which old stained glass panes were massively used,  played an important role in the development of the early Gothic revival. The use of expended stained glass material was dictated by artistic considerations, aimed at restoring the medieval ambience and creating eerie atmosphere, and by practical ones: despite the fact that the artistic tradition of producing figural stained glass was sustained throughout the whole modern age in England (mainly as the technique of painting on glass), it was already in decline at the time. It was, therefore, only the early romantic interest in the Middle Ages that revived the declining stained glass art; there are also examples of these contemporary works in Walpole’s residence.[3] During this time stained glass, or at least painted glass, was not only a desirable form of decoration in the increasingly popular neo-Gothic interiors, but it was also a valuable collection item and works of this old craft were imported in large numbers from continental Europe. In particular they came from France, where they were being discarded under the influence of post-revolutionary secularization.[4]

The English vogue contributed to the spread of medieval interest and neo-Gothic tastes on the continent – William IX von Hessen-Kassel ordered his neo-medieval castle built in Wilhelmshöhe Park to be decorated with stained glass from Hessian churches. Leopold Friedrich Franz von Anhalt-Dessau bought ‘colourful windows’ for his gothic house in Wörlitz, with Lavater as the middle-man. The armoury window of Prince Frederick’s Berlin palace at Wilhelmstraße had stained glass windows from the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries placed among medieval ornaments. There were numerous similar examples, connected mainly with the aristocracy. Medieval and modern treatises on the technology of coloured glass production were rediscovered, but all of these only marginally revived the forgotten techniques. In practice, more important attempts were made by artists and craftsmen, mainly enamellers and goldsmiths. Just like with porcelain production, inventing a new method of glass dyeing was both a valuable and a closely guarded secret. It should not be forgotten that the tradition of enamelled-stained glass (chiefly on colourless glass) survived in its rudimentary form also outside England, including Switzerland and some of the Germanic countries.[5]

The interest in stained glass, originating in Great Britain, (which was often manifested in impressive collections and ever braver technological experiments delving into the medieval craft’s secrets), constituted the first stage of the European stained glass art revival. This stage could also be observed in Poland.

translated by Anna Gajewska and Renata Latko

[1] Cf. the article of Danuta Czapczyńska-Kleszczyńska in this volume.

[2] E. Vaassen, Bilder auf Glas. Glasgemälde zwischen 1780-1870, München–Berlin, 1997, p.37.

[3] M. Peover, “Horace Walpole’s use of stained glass at Strawberry Hill”, British Art Journal 5 (Spring/Summer 2004), no.1, pp.22–29.

[4] Vassen, pp.89–93.

[5] Vassen, pp.33-34.

[6] E. Letkiewicz, Polskie witraże nowożytne malowane emaliami, Lublin, 1995, pp.204–265.

[7] L. Kalinowski, H. Małkiewiczówna, “Średniowieczne witraże kościoła Mariackiego w Krakowie”, in L. Kalinowski, H. Małkiewiczówna, L. Heine, P. Karaszkiewicz, Średniowieczne witraże kościoła Mariackiego w Krakowie. Historia i konserwacja. Studia i Materiały Wydziału Konserwacji i Restauracji Dzieł Sztuki Akademii Sztuk Pięknych w Krakowie, vol. VII, Kraków, 1997, p.20.

[8] There were ‘letters and numbers of coloured glass framed in lead’ in one of the windows of the south side of the galleries of the Franciscan church. They combined into the inscription X P Z F A D 1778, signifying: X. Paweł Zembrzuski Franciszkanin Roku Pańskiego 1778 [Priest Paweł Zembrzuski the Franciscan Anno Domini 1778]. It was made to commemorate the new glass panelling and the renovation of the galleries. In 1905–1912 Franciszek Mączyński, while restoring the galleries, designed new glass panelling with the use of the 18th century fragments. A reconstruction of the inscription was made after the war (cf. Katalog zabytków sztuki w Polsce, vol. IV: Miasto Kraków. part II: Kościoły i klasztory Śródmieścia, eds. A. Bochnak, J. Samek, Warszwa, 1971, pp.117–118.

[9] Wspomnienia Ambrożego Grabowskiego, vol.II (Biblioteka Krakowska, vol.41), Kraków, 1909, p.114.

[10] L. Siemieński,”O oknach kolorowych i szczątkach okien w Kościołach Krakowskich”, Gazeta Warszawska (1853), no.241, p.5.

[11] Poczet pamiątek zachowanych w Domu Gotyckim w Puławach, Warszawa, 1828, p.30.

[12] Ibid., pp.30, 33, 36, 103.

[13] Z. Żygulski (junior), „Dzieje zbiorów puławskich (Świątynia Sybilli i Dom Gotycki”, Rozprawy i sprawozdania Muzeum Narodowego w Krakowie VII (1962), p.137.

[14] M. Nesteruk, Z. Rejman, „Wstęp”, in J. P. Woronicz, Pisma wybrane, (=Biblioteka Narodowa, no. 299), Wrocław-Warszawa-Kraków, 2002, pp.XIII–XV.

[15] The Archives of the Krakow Cathedral Charter, Inv.D.197: Inwentarz fundi instructi Pałacu Biskupiego wraz z należącemi dwiema placami za Wiślną Bramą tudzież Jurydyką Biskupią zwaną nie mniey Folwarku Zastawa i Wsi Zarobney Sulechowa w Okręgu Rzeczy pospolitey Krakowa sytuowanych, po wyniesieniu na godność Arcybiskupa i Prymasa Królestwa Polskiego JWbnego Woronicza Biskupa Krakowskiego JWbnemu Xędzu Saryusz Skórkowskiemu teraźniejszemu Biskupowi Krakowskiemu przez Delegowanych Cywilno Duchownych Komisarzy w skutek Reskryptu Senatu Rządzącego z dnia 19. Lipca 1828 r. N° 27420 sporządzony, p.20.

[16] About the reconstruction of the Palace cf. S. Tomkowicz, Pałac biskupi w Krakowie, (=Biblioteka Krakowska, vol. 78), Kraków, 1933, pp.21–28; M. Rożek, ”Architektura i urządzenie wnętrz Pałacu Biskupiego w Krakowie (XIV–XIX w.), Rocznik Krakowski XLV (1974), pp.35–39.

[17] Jan Nepomucen Danielski, Widok z gabinetu historycznego na część oddzieloną kolumnami i na okno…przez które widać kopiec Kościuszki, lithography on the basis of the plaque from 1828, State Archive in Cracow.

[18] J. P. Woronicz, Pałac biskupów krakowskich, in: idem, Pisma rozmaite I. P. Woronicza biegiem lat ułożone. Księga wtóra, Kraków, 1832, p.194. The description of the palace was originally published in: Pszczółka Krakowska. Dziennik liberalny, historyczny i literatury, (January–February–March 1822), vol. I (new issue vol. VII, general collection vol. X), pp.152–175.

The thesis that ‘slides’ were supposed to be a  substitute for stained glass is probable, as attempts to use paintings on thin fabric for this purpose were also made in Western Europe (A. Nagel, H. von Roda, « … der Augenlust und dem Gemüth». Die Glasmalereien in Basel 1830-1930, Basel 1998, p.22) and still in 1863 the Protestant bishop of Vermont, John Henry Hopkins, recommended transparent paintings on linen or muslin as much cheaper and, besides this, providing ‘a very beautiful effect’ (W. B. Clark, “America’s First Stained Glass: William Jay Bolton’s Widows At the Church of the Holy Trinity, Brooklyn, New York”, The American Art Journal XI (Autumn 1979), no.4, p.32.

[19] About architecture and the chapel design cf. W. Bałus, “Architektura sakralna w Krakowie i Podgórzu”, in W. Bałus, E. Mikołajska, Rev. Jacek Urban, Joanna Wolańska, Sztuka sakralna Krakowa w wieku XIX , part I, (=Ars Vetus et Nova, vol. XII), Kraków, 2004  pp.95–96.

[20] Inwentarz fundi instructi, pp.25–26.

[21] „Rys historyi sztuki w Polsce. Wyjątek z Przedmów do drugiego tomu Słownika malarzów polskich”, Czas (1851), no.212, p.1. Rastawiecki claimed that the inscriptions placed on the stained glass works pointed to their creation in the 14th century. Helena Małkiewiczówka believes, however, that they were modern works (information gained during a conversation in June 2007).

[22] I. Jakimowicz, Tomasz Zieliński. Kolekcjoner i mecenas, Wrocław–Warszawa–Kraków–Gdańsk, 1973, pp.38, 50.

[23] A detailed analysis of the architecture and decoration of the palace was presented by J. Kaźmierczak, Wart Pac pałaca… Zamek w Dowspudzie – nostalgiczny pomnik dawnej Litwy złączonej z Koroną”, Rocznik Historii Sztuki XIX (1992), pp.221–271.

[24] Ibid., p.243.

[25] A. Ryszkiewicz, ”Ludwika Paca stosunek do sztuki”, Rocznik Białostocki XIII (1976), p.398.

[26]On Wąsowiczowa’s activity in Mokotów: M. Zakrzewska, „Mokotów. Pałacyk i założenie ogrodowe”, Kwartalnik Architektury i Urbanistyki VII (1962), no.1, pp.60–67.

[27] J. L. Orański, Mokotów, Warszawa, 1826, pp.11–12.

[28] About the restoration of the Chapel by Lanci: D. Skowron, ”Odnowienie kaplicy Świętej Trójcy w katedrze na Wawelu przez Franciszka Marię Lanciego”, Studia Waweliana III (1994), pp.63–73; J. Urban, Katedra na Wawelu 17951918, Kraków, 2000, pp. 83–87; Bałus, pp.98–100.

[29] Bałus, p.99.

[30] A. Potocka, Voyage d’Italie (18261827), Paris, 1889, pp.198–199.

[31] Ibid., p.199.

[32] ”Vetri colorati a fuoco con figure transparenti”, Biblioteca Italiana ossia Giornale di letteratura scienze ed arti, vol.49, no. gennaio 1828, pp.115–116.

[33] The Archives of the Krakow Cathedral Charter, A.Cath.798: The letter from Anna Dunin-Wąsowiczowa of the Tyszkiewicz family to the Krakow Cathedral Charter from 4.11.1831; it is quoted in Urban 2000, p.83.

[34] Skowron, p.73.

[35] In July 1898 a new window post had already been installed, cf. Urban 2000, p.303.

[36] S. Partsch, “Bertini, Giovanni Battista”, in Allgemeines Künstlerlexikon, vol.10, München–Leipzig, 1995, pp.98–99; more details about the work of Bertini and Brenta and later of Giovani Bertini himself can be found in S. Silvestri, Vetrate italiane dell’Ottocento. Storia del gusto e relazioni artistiche fra Italia e Francia 18201870, Firenze 2006 (=Italia e Francia. Studi di storia dell’arte, II), passim.

[37] On the basis of Silvestri, passim.

[38] Partsch, p.98.

[39] Silvestri, p.14.

[40] Vaassen, passim.

[41] F. Gatouillat, ”Les vitraux d’Ingres”, Bulletin du Musée Ingres (1980), no.47–48, pp.147–155.

[42] Vaassen, passim.

[43] E. Vaassen, “Glasmalerei des 19. Jahrhunderts“, in Glasmalerei des 19. Jahrhunderts in Deutschland, catologue of the exhibition in Anger Museum, Erfurt (23.09.1993 – 27.02.1994), p.12.

[44] The two first large stained glass workshops in France were established in 1827 (Sèvres, at the porcelain manufacture) and in 1829 (Choisy-le-Roi), while in the German countries the pioneering institution was the Munich royal workshop (1827). All of them produced stained glass mainly in the enamel technique.

[45] Vaassen 1997, pp.79–83;

J. R. Beines, “Materialien  zur Geschichte farbiger Verglasungen von 1780 bis 1814, vorzugsweise für das Gebiet der Bundesrepublik Deutschland“, in W. Haberey, S. Beeh, J. R. Beines, Farbfenster in Bonner Wohnhäusern (=Arbeitshefte/Landeskonservator Rheinland, 24), Köln, 1979, pp.100–111.

[46] Vaassen 1994, p.15.

[47] Beines, pp.108–110.

[48] J. Cheshire, ”Joseph Bell and the revival of glass-painting in the nineteenth century”, The Journal of Stained Glass XXII (1998), p.31.

[49] Ch. Bouchon, C. Brisac, ”Le vitrail”, in Ch. Bouchon, C. Brisac, N.-J. Chaline, J.-M. Leniaud, Ces églises du dix-neuvième siècle, Amiens, 1993, p.145.

[50] Kurier Warszawski (1848), no.254, p.1229; cf. also: Marcin Zaleski (1796–1877), exhibition catalogue, The National Museum in Warsaw, December 1983 – March 1984, catalogue compiled by Z. A. Nowak, p.20, 108. The catalogue also informs (p.91) that in the Iconographic Documentation Section of the National Museum a photograph was preserved of Zaleski’s lost painting representing the interior of the Bernardine church with a visible unfinished decoration of the window over the main altar. If the dating of the painting is correct (before or around 1845) the stained glass must have been made in 1845–1848 and was connected with the restoration of the frescos of the church conducted by Zaleski in 1843–1845. Its further history is unknown. In 1887 stained glass executed by Józef Kosikiewicz was installed in the window over the altar, which at the beginning of the 20th century was replaced by another, designed by Wacław Husarski (cf.: D. Kaczmarczyk, Kościół św. Anny (St. Anne’s Church), Warszawa, 1984, p.205). The executioner of the first stained glass, Patrycy Enderlin, established ‘a factory of covering mirrors’ in Warsaw in 1845, where he traded in glass and made glass works. According to press notices, he studied the mirror making and glass working while visiting foreign workshops in France, Belgium, the Czech lands, Bavaria and Prussia. Perhaps he came across the methods of stained glass production there, cf.: E. Kowecka, Sprzedać! Kupić! Sklepy warszawskie z artykułami domowymi 1830–1870, Warszawa 1998 (=Studia i Materiały z Historii Kultury Materialnej, vol.65), p.69. It is also known that in the 1840s he glazed the windows of the Warsaw Visitation Order’s church (J. A. Chrościcki, Kościół Wizytek, Warszawa, 1973, p.83).

[51] Z. Ostrowska-Kłębowska, Dzieje Kaplicy Królów Polskich czyli Złotej w katedrze poznańskiej, Poznań, 1997, pp.121–122.

[52] R. Plebański, ”Postulat utworzenia katalogu witraży wielkopolskich”, Wielkopolski Biuletyn Konserwatorski 2 (2003), pp.164–165 (I would like to thank Danuta Czapczyńska-Kleszczyńska for directing my attention to this publication).

[53] M. I. Kwiatkowska, Katedra św. Jana, Warszawa, 1978, pp.171, 176 (fig. 65).

[54] E. Kowalczykowa, Kościół Św. Krzyża, Warszawa, 1975, p.41.

[55] W. Komorowski, ”Kamienica Józefa Louisa. Epizod z dziejów koncepcji romantycznych w Krakowie”, Rocznik Krakowski LXI (1995), p.64.

[56] Szyby Kolorowe w Kościołach Krakowskich. Zebrał i Odmalował Ludwik Łepkowski w 1864 i 1865 (text by J. Łepkowski), p.4v, Institute of Art History of the Jagiellonian University.

[57] A perfect description of complex restoration of Collegium Maius by Karol Kremer was presented by U. Bęczkowska in the dissertation, now being reviewed, titled: Karol Kremer and building department in Kraków in the years 18371860, (dissertation prepared under the supervision of Professor Wojciech Bałus in the Institute of Art History of the Jagiellonian University). In the State Archive in Kraków there is a plan of the coloured glazing for one of the windows (Plany budynków UJ, 47-2: Okno Sali Obiedzińskiego w Kollegium Jagiellońskim).

[58] Cf. Kalinowski, Małkiewiczówna. The bills related to the maintenance of the Krakow cathedral suggest that since the 1820s Tomasz Rostafiński monopolised glazing work in the Wawel’s Cathedral (Archives of the Krakow Cathedral Charter, A.Cath.123 [from 23.10.1824]; A.Cath.142 [from 15.01.1844]; A.Cath.143 [from 4.01.1845]; A.Cath.146 [from 23.09.1847]; A.Cath.147 [from 22.09.1848]; A.Cath.148 [from 20.09.1849]) and was the author of the enigmatic ‘star-shaped circular window’, made in September 1824 (A.Cath.123).

[59] ”Druga wycieczka do Krzeszowic w roku 1845”, in Pamiątka z Krzeszowic czyli zbiór wszystkich opisów tego ustronia Wierszem i Prozą ze wspomnieniem Artura hrabi Potockiego połączony, Kraków, 1846, p.110.

[60] The Małopolskie Voivodship Monuments Conservator’s Archive, inventory no. 10.621: H. Małkiewiczówna, K. Czepiel, J. Szyller, R. Kisiel, Dokumentacja konserwatorska gotyckich witraży w kościele p.w. Bożego Ciała w Krakowie, Kraków, 1985, p.6.

[61] The fact that stained glass was a topic frequently discussed in the press and historical papers is evidence for the increasing interest in this type of art. The medieval stained glass from Małopolska is discussed by H. Małkiewiczówna, “Stan badań nad średniowiecznym malarstwem witrażowym w Małopolsce”, in Dziedzictwo polskiej sztuki witrażowej, Kraków 2000, pp. 9–10. The first reference to stained glass in the 19th century appeared in the Krakow press during the visit of Bertel Thorwaldsen, who supposedly marveled at ‘ancient windows’ of St. Mary’s Basilica, cf. “Przejazd Kawalera Thorwaldsen”, Pszczółka Krakowska. Dziennik Liberalny, Historyczny i Literatury (October-November-December 1820), vol. IV (vol. V of the general collection), pp.90–91. When it comes to information about the contemporary works, it is worth reading the translation of the article from La Propriété magazine, which discusses the attempts to revive the stained glass technique in France (“Malowanie na szkle”, Pamiętnik Technologiczno-Rolniczy (1834), vol. XII, pp.169–174) and the comments of Sobieszczański about the stained-glass realizations in Western Europe (F. M. Sobieszczański, Wiadomości historyczne o sztukach pięknych w dawnej Polsce, vol. I, Warszawa, 1847, p.296).

[62] Erinnerungen an Pulawy, Leipzig, 1829, pp.42, 45, 87.

[63] W. Bałus, Sztuka sakralna Krakowa w wieku XIX, part II: Matejko and Wyspiański, (=Ars Vetu et Nova, vol. XXVI), Kraków, 2007, p.25.

[64] F. Gatouillat, “Verrières aniconiques en Bourgogne vers 1840”, Annales de Bretagne et des Pays de L’Ouest 93 (1986), no.4, pp.401–403.

The full text of the article was published in the pages of "Sacrum et Decorum" I, 2008. Please send your orders to the University of Rzeszów Publishers or activate an electronic subscription.