Some Observations on the Stained Glass Panels by Stanisław Wyspiański and Józef Mehoffer in the Western Window of St Mary’s Church in Kraków[1]

Tomasz SzybistyPedagogical University, Kraków

Abstract:

The stained glass designs by Józef Mehoffer and Stanisław Wyspiański for the western window of St. Mary’s Church in Kraków have been the subject of extensive research. However, the question of the authorship of individual panels has not been answered yet. On the basis of a remark made by Wyspiański in a letter to his uncle Stankiewicz it can be stated with certainty that the whole left (southern) half of the window was based on Wyspiański’s concept. Wyspiański was also the author of the designs for the panels in the tracery.

Apart from the answering the attribution questions, the articles discusses also the circumstances in which the designs and the glazings for the western windows were made in the context of the major renovation St. Mary’s Church was undergoing in the late 19th century. It also discusses the ideological and artistic questions connected with this set of designs, including the allusions to Veit Stoss sculpture and French art.

keywords: stained glass, sacred art, St. Mary’s Church, Kraków, Stanisław Wyspiański, Józef Mehoffer

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The stained glass designs by Józef Mehoffer and Stanisław Wyspiański for the western window of St Mary’s Church in Kraków were on numerous occasions subjects of study, most recently by Danuta Czapczyńska-Kleszczyńska and Wojciech Bałus, who in their works have discussed in detail their origins and the artistic themes of these works.[1] However, the key question of the authorship of individual panels has remained unsolved. Answering this question is one of the main purposes of this article.

The origins of the cycle depicting Mary’s ancestors and the scenes from her life [fig. 1] were connected with the major renovation works begun in St Mary’s Church in the late 1880s.[2] The new stained glass in the chancel and nave windows were going to complete the painted interior decorations designed by Jan Matejko. The artist allegedly dreamed then “about completing it with the coloured windows”[3] and certainly intended to design them himself, especially as he had at that time already wide experience in using coloured glass in medieval interiors (the stained glass window with St Leonard for the Wawel crypt, the designs for the churches in Przemyśl and Prague; in the 1880s he also participated in the discussion about putting the stained glass back into the windows of the Wawel Royal Castle Cathedral).[4] During one of the meetings of the renovation committee it was actually said that Matejko was going to design the coloured glass in the tracery of the western window.[5] Eventually, the painter made for St Mary’s Church only a preliminary sketch of the stained glass sponsored by Ignacy Milewski for one of the windows near the main altar (sIII);[6] the designs of the remaining panels in the chancel and the nave were made by Mehoffer and Wyspiański, who successively submitted them to Matejko for his approval.

The young artists designed the concept of the following glass panels: the memorial panel for Fr. Julian Bukowski (designed by J. Mehoffer, 1890, made by Teodor Zajdzikowski workshop, 1890, window SVIII); unrealized cycles Virtues and Vices (designed by S. Wyspiański, 1890–1891, for the window nIII)[7] and The Psalm on God’s Mercy (designed by J. Mehoffer, 1890–1891, for the window sIII);[8] the panels with the coats of arms belonging to the donors of new glass (the panels were made in early 1891 in the Zajdzikowski workshop – Mehoffer designed panels for the windows nIV–nVI, while Wyspiański designed sIV–sV); at the same time the so-called The Debt of Gratitude was made, that is a set of stained glass panels commemorating persons particularly engaged in the renovation (designed by S. Wyspiański, 1891, made by T. Zajdzikowski workshop, 1891, the panel depicting the Virgin Mary at the bottom of the group was made on the basis of the design by J. Mehoffer intended for The Psalm on God’s Mercy[9]).

Translated by Monika Mazurek


[1] D. Czapczyńska, Teodor Zajdzikowski, in: “Witraż”, 2001, no. 2, pp. 30–32; D. Czapczyńska-Kleszczyńska, Teodor Zajdzikowski (1840–1907). Pionier krakowskich witrażowników, in: “Rocznik Krakowski” 69, 2003, pp. 151–170; eadem, Nie tylko Wyspiański i Mehoffer, a lecture in the Kraków Historical Society, 29 March 2008, MS owned by the author; eadem, Witraże Stanisława Wyspiańskiego i ich wykonawcy, a lecture in the National Museum in Kraków, 18 March 2009, MS owned by the author; eadem, Rola kobiet w odrodzeniu polskiego witrażownictwa, a lecture organized by the Kraków chapter of the Art Historians Society, 22 April 2009, MS owned by the author; eadem, O witrażach z końca XIX wieku w dwóch gotyckich kościołach w Krakowie, in: Witraże w obiektach zabytkowych. Między konserwacją a sztuką współczesną, ed. J. Budyn-Kamykowska, Kraków–Malbork 2009, pp. 144–155 (a paper delivered in 2005); W. Bałus, Sztuka sakralna Krakowa w wieku XIX, part 2, Matejko i Wyspiański, Kraków 2007 (=Ars Vetus et Nova, 26), pp. 59–70 (chapter “Pierwsze witraże Wyspiańskiego i Mehoffera”). The listed publications contain further readings on this subject, see also: D. Czapczyńska-Kleszczyńska, Zapomniani twórcy. Stan badań nad polskim witrażownictwem (druga połowa wieku XIX – rok 1945), in: „Sacrum et Decorum. Materiały i studia z historii sztuki sakralnej” 1, 2008, pp. 94–123.

[2] These works have been discussed on numerous occasions, most recently by Wojciech Bałus: Bałus 2007 (ft. 2), pp. 13–70, see for further readings on this subject.

[3] Quoted after: Bałus 2007 (ft. 2), p. 59.

[4] B. Ciciora, Jan Matejko a średniowiecze. Zainteresowania – inspiracje – realizacje, Kraków 2009, Ph.D. dissertation written under the supervision of Prof. Wojciech Bałus at the Institute of the History of Art at the Jagiellonian University, pp. 164–179; see also: eadem, Problemy warsztatowe twórców pierwszych krakowskich witraży na przykładzie prac Jana Matejki, in: „Zabytkoznawstwo i konserwatorstwo” 36 (=Acta Universitatis Nicolai Copernici, 386), 2008, pp. 27–41.

[5] The Archive of St Mary’s Church in Kraków (further referred to as: AKM), Book 720, The protocol from the meeting of 5 Nov 1890.

[6] A. Ryszkiewicz, Galeria obrazów Ignacego Korwin Milewskiego, in: idem, Zbieracze i obrazy, Warszawa 1972, pp. 98–99. Windows and individual panels are tagged in this part of the article in accordance with the international system used by Corpus Vitrearum. Shortly speaking, „I” refers to the central window in the chancel’s apse, while the Roman numerals refer to the consecutive pairs of windows towards the façade and therefore located usually in the consecutive bays of the church. The letters „n” and „s” mark the northern and the southern window of one pair and apply only to the windows in the perimeter walls; the capital letters „N” and „S” are used to mark the windows within the walls of the central nave (in case of basilica floor plans).

[7] The project is in the holdings of the National Museum in Kraków (further referred to as MNK), inv. no. III-r.a. 14295.

[8] MNK, inv. no. 81132.

[9] This panel may have been made as a replacement of the rejected design by Wyspiański. It should be noted that the Jagiellonian University Museum (inv. no. 2657) owns a project of the stained glass panel of St George fighting the dragon, commonly attributed to Wyspiański. The similarity of some elements to the solutions used in the panels of The Debt of Gratitude suggests it could be that unrealized project by Wyspiański. Wojciech Bałus, however, does not agree with this attribution, pointing to the low artistic qualities of the project (in the review of the doctoral dissertation on which this article is based). However, perhaps it was precisely why the design was rejected in 1891. I would like to express my thanks to Mrs Danuta Czapczyńska-Kleszczyńska for pointing out this project to me.

[10] AKM, Book 720, The protocol from the meeting of 5 Nov. 1890.

[11] Kronika, in: “Czas”, 1892, no. 80 (7 April), p. 2. The first project of the windows stonework with the decorative tracery reminiscent of flamboyant Gothic was designed by Jan Matejko, but, for unknown reasons, it was a much simpler version by an anonymous author that was finally executed – cf.: Ciciora 2009 (ft. 5), pp. 180–181.

[12] Kronika, in: “Czas”, 1891, no. 86 (16 April), p. 3.

[13] A letter from Tadeusz Stryjeński to Józef Mehoffer and Stanisław Wyspiański, written in Kraków on 29 May 1891, quoted after: L. Lameński, Korespondencja Tadeusza Stryjeńskiego z Józefem Mehofferem w latach 1891–1900, in: „Roczniki Humanistyczne” 27, 1979, p. 82.

[14] A letter from Stanisław Wyspiański to Kazimierz Brudzewski, written in Salzburg on 14 May 1891, quoted after: S. Wyspiański, Listy zebrane, vol. 4, Listy Stanisława Wyspiańskiego różne – do wielu adresatów, ed. M. Rydlowa, Kraków 1998, pp. 96–97.

[15] A letter from Tadeusz Stryjeński to Józef Mehoffer and Stanisław Wyspiański, written in Kraków on 3 June 1891, quoted after: Lameński 1979 (ft. 14), p. 82.

[16] A letter from Stanisław Wyspiański to Karol Maszkowski, written in Paris on 10 July 1891, quoted after: S. Wyspiański, Listy zebrane, vol. 3, Listy do Karola Maszkowskiego, ed. M. Rydlowa, Kraków 1997, p. 63.

[17] A letter from Stanisław Wyspiański to Karol Maszkowski, written in Paris on 17 July 1891, quoted after: Wyspiański 1997 (ft. 17), p. 68.

[18] A letter from Tadeusz Stryjeński to Józef Mehoffer and Stanisław Wyspiański, written in Kraków on 29 Sep 1891, quoted after: Lameński 1979 (ft. 14), p. 85. The cartoons sent to Kraków had to be filled out, as the following question in a letter from Wyspiański to his aunt and uncle Stankiewicz: “is the figure of Jeremiah already coloured?” – in a letter from Paris, dated 31 Aug 1891, quoted after: Wyspiański 1998 (ft. 15), p. 39.

[19] A letter from Tadeusz Stryjeński to Józef Mehoffer and Stanisław Wyspiańskie, written in Kraków on 4 Oct 1891, quoted after: Lameński 1979 (ft. 14), p. 86.

[20] Kronika, in: “Czas”, 1892, no. 80 (7 April), p. 2.

[21] The National Museum in Kraków, inv. no.: III-r.a. 4756: The Annunciation to Joachim, (erroneously identified in the museum index card as The Dream of Joseph), III-r.a. 4758: The Meeting at the Golden Gate, III-r.a. 4757: The Presentation of the Virgin in the Temple, III-r.a. 4759: The Marriage of Virgin Mary and Joseph, III-r.a. 4760: Annunciation, III-r.a. 4762: Visitation, III-r.a. 4761: Nativity, III-r.a.-4763: Adoration of the Magi, III-r.a. 4764: The Angel Urges Joseph to Flee to Egypt, III-r.a. 4766: Flight to Egypt, III-r.a. 4765: Christ Among the Doctors, III-r.a. 4767: The Miracle of Cana, III-r.a. 4768: Crucifixion, MNK III-r.a. 4770: Deposition, III-r.a. 4769: The Pentecost, III-r.a. 4771: Dormition. The cartoons were presented by Tadeusz Stryjeński to the Museum yet before 1902 – see: Józef Mehoffer. Opus magnum, exhibition catalogue, The National Museum in Kraków, Kraków 2000, p. 96.

[22] The Silesian Museum in Katowice, Józef Mehoffer, The stained glass project for St Mary’s Church in Kraków, inv. no. MŚK/SzM/431, dimensions: 67,5 x 43,5 cm. The cartoon is a project of one of the panels portraying Virgin Mary’s ancestors. It was bought in 1929 in Franciszek Studziński antique shop.

[23] This sketch, presented in 1891 at the exhibition in the Cloth Hall, belonged later to Tadeusz Stryjeński. Its present whereabouts are unknown, although it certainly survived World War II, and Tadeusz Adamowicz mentioned its being found in 1967, without supplying any additional information, see: T. Adamowicz, Stanisława Wyspiańskiego „Cnoty i występki”, in: “Rocznik Historii Sztuki” 7, 1969, p. 244, ft. 11.

[24] A letter from Stanisław Wyspiański to his uncle and aunt Stankiewicz, written in Paris on 27 Nov 1891, quoted after: Wyspiański 1998 (ft. 15), pp. 53–54.

[25] In a letter to his mother, written in Paris on 12 December 1891, Mehoffer noted: “We received at the same time a postcard from Stryjeński, in which he wrote that the rosette of the great windows designed by S.W. is already set and looks superb” (The National Library in Warsaw, manuscript 7373, vol. 1, pp. 56–57; I would like to express my gratitude to Prof. Marek Zgórniak for providing me with excerpts from Mehoffer’s correspondence).

[26] T. Kruszyński, Witraż J. Mehoffera i S. Wyspiańskiego w fasadzie zachodniej kościoła Mariackiego w Krakowie, in: Sprawozdania z czynności i posiedzeń Polskiej Akademii Umiejętności za rok 1948, Kraków 1949, p. 475.

[27] Kronika, in: “Czas”, 1892, no. 80 (7 April), p. 2.

[28] Ibidem.

[29] Bałus 1997 (ft. 2), pp. 69–70.

[30] They are still in the holdings of Jan Matejko House.

[31] The potential iconographic sources for this idea in Matejko’s polychrome wall paintings were compiled by Wojciech Bałus. They include: The Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry (about 1411), Chronica Polonorum by Maciej Miechowita (1519) and the work of Viollet-le-Duc: the decoration of St Louis Chapel in the Parisian Notre-Dame, as well as the stained glass The Vineyard of the Apostles in the church Saint-Germain-l’Auxerrois – Bałus 1997 (ft. 2), p. 37.

[32] One of the panels from Immenhausen was reproduced in the pattern book Ornamentale Glasmalereien, Berlin 1885, which was used in the Zajdzikowski workshop when designing the filling for the tracery of the Kraków church, cf.: Szybisty 2010 (ft. 1), p. 160.

[33] A letter from Stanisław Wyspiański to Karol Maszkowski, written in Paris on 10 July 1891, quoted after: Wyspiański 1997 (ft. 17), p. 63.

[34] A letter from Stanisław Wyspiański to Lucjan Rydel, written in Amiens on 18 June 1890, quoted after: S. Wyspiański, Listy zebrane, vol. 2, Listy do Lucjana Rydla, part 1, Listy i notatnik z podróży, eds. L. Płoszewski, M. Rydlowa, Kraków 1979, p. 102–103. The predella of the Stoss altar was partly reconstructed during the renovation in the 1860s, of which Wyspiański was aware.

[35] A letter from Stanisław Wyspiański to Lucjan Rydel, written in Amiens on 27 June 1890, quoted after: Wyspiański 1979 (ft. 35), p. 114.

[36] A letter from Stanisław Wyspiański to Lucjan Rydel, written in Reims on 3 July 1890, quoted after: Wyspiański 1979 (ft. 35), p. 134.

[37] A letter from Stanisław Wyspiański to Lucjan Rydel, written in Amiens on 18 June 1890, quoted after: Wyspiański 1979 (ft. 35), p. 99.

[38] K.G. [Konstanty Górski], Z wystawy obrazów, in: “Czas”, 1891, no. 281 (8 Dec), p. 3.

[39] W. Bałus, Historyzm, analogiczność, malowniczość. Rozważania o centralnych kategoriach twórczości Teodora Talowskiego, in: „Folia Historiae Artium” 24, 1988, p. 129.

[40] A letter from Stanisław Wyspiański to Lucjan Rydel, written in Reims on 7 July 1890, quoted after: Wyspiański 1979 (ft. 35), pp. 150–151.

[41] MNK, inv. no. III-r.a. 3618.

[42] J. Mehoffer, Dziennik, ed. J. Puciata-Pawłowska, Kraków 1975, p. 60 (entry of 27 Sep 1891).

[43] Ibidem, p. 139 (entry of 13 and 14 Aug 1892).

[44] Ibidem, p. 134 (entry of 9 Aug 1892).

[45] Jean Taralon divided the development of historicized stained glass in France into three phases. The last one, at the end of the century, featured evolved painterliness and narrativeness of the depicted scenes, often containing multiple figures, whose composition could be quite independent of the architectural divisions of the window opening, cf.: J. Taralon, De la Révolution à 1920, in: Le vitrail français, Paris 1958, pp. 273–283.

[46] They are included in the sketchbook no. 11, now owned by Ryszard Mehoffer; four of them were reproduced in: M. Smolińska-Byczuk, „Rękodzielnik witraży” – edukacja witrażownicza Józefa Mehoffera, in: “Witraż”, 2002, no. 2–3, pp. 47, 48, 50, 51.

[47] Impatiently waiting for the cartoons for the western window, Stryjeński wrote: “Really I don’t understand gentlemen you must be thinking you’re going to send us masterpieces. It would be appropriate to send us a few for showing and wait with further work for the letter. It could be that I would send everything back for correction – I’m writing in jest” – a letter from Tadeusz Stryjeński to Józef Mehoffer and Stanisław Wyspiański, written in Kraków on 24 July 1891, quoted after: Lameński 1979 (ft. 14), p. 92.

[48] A letter from Tadeusz Stryjeński to Józef Mehoffer and Stanisław Wyspiański, written in Kraków on 30 March 1892, quoted after: Lameński 1979 (ft. 14), p. 92.

[49] A letter from Stanisław Wyspiański to Józef Mehoffer, written in Paris on 23 Sep 1892, quoted after: S. Wyspiański, Listy zebrane, vol. 1, Listy do Józefa Mehoffera, Henryka Opieńskiego i Tadeusza Stryjenskiego, part 1, Listy, ed. M. Rydlowa, Kraków 1994, p. 59; about the shift in Wyspiański’s perception of stained glass at that time, cf.: Bałus 2007 (ft. 2), pp. 160–162.

The full text of the article was published in the pages of "Sacrum et Decorum" III, 2010. Please send your orders to the University of Rzeszów Publishers or activate an electronic subscription.