Uniwersytet Rzeszowski
Centrum Dokumentacji Współczesnej Sztuki Sakralnej
pl. Ofiar Getta 4-5/35, 35-002 Rzeszów
tel. +48 17 872 20 98

Maria Nitka

Polish Institute of World Art Studies


In 1872 Cyprian Kamil Norwid voiced an appeal to save a collection of drawings by Leopold Nowotny, who named the future Illustrated Polish Bible. The author hereof presented the idea of an “illustrated bible”, as was undertaken by the Brotherhood of St Lucas in the art of the 19th century, whose artistic heir was Leopold Nowotny. He created several dozen drawings showing religious scenes set in Nazarene aesthetics. These depictions do not differ much from the classical versions of cycles of paintings from the history of the Old and New Testaments. The author seeks, therefore, answers as to why Norwid saw in them paintings from the “Polish” bible. This issue is analysed with reference to the Nazarene concept of history in which, according to the scholastic idea of time, particular events become a repetition of the concept of the story of salvation – the most important lesson in the message of the Catholic theology of the Bible. It is indicated that the Nazarene aesthetics, rooted in such a concept of time, is strictly related to the semantics of the work. The archaic, anti-naturalist form of the paintings of the Brotherhood of St Lucas is, therefore, an element of a conscious attempt at historiosophy, which is the basis for understanding the core of this artistic movement. This connection of form and content in the works of the Nazarenes was described by Cordula Grewe as “historical symbolism”, which connects the holy and secular histories and moves the profanum into the sphere of the sacrum. This perspective on the Polish version of biblical history would feature depictions of saints by Nowotny. In the theological sense, the copies of biblical history are, in fact, the fates of particular saints – followers of Christ. Events from the history of the nation were for the members of the Brotherhood of St Lucas also a repetition of the history of salvation. In Polish art, the only full realization of this concept is the work of Edward Brzozowski Bolesław Chrobry and Otton III at the grave of St Adalbert in the Golden Chapel in Poznań cathedral. There are, however, no references to the history of Poland in the art of Nowotny, who devoted himself only to producing religious paintings. In the Nazarene concept of history, this did not have to mean a lack of “Polishness” of these works; they might be placed in the political context as a manifestation of Catholicism with conservative values being the basis of the founding of the Golden Chapel (Chapel of the Kings of Poland) and the chapel in Turew, where in the altar Nowotny’s painting of the Immaculata was placed. Bringing up the idea of creating the Illustrated Polish Bible, Norwid referred not only to the collection of graphics and paintings by Nowotny, but to the project of creating a sacred-national painting movement, and the very idea of collecting illustrations for the Illustrated Polish Bible may be understood as another attempt at the sanctification of national history in the art of Polish romanticism.

Keywords: Cyprian Kamil Norwid, Leopold Nowotny, religious painting, 19th century, Brotherhood of St Lucas, Illustrated Bible (Bilderbibel), Turew


In 1872 Cyprian Kamil Norwid in his letter to Józef Bohdan Zaleski called for saving the “collection […] produced by a notable expert”. This collection belonged to the future “Illustrated Polish Bible, which this Catholic nation does not have at the moment”.[1] What this would Illustrated Polish Bible be is not clear, since the poet’s call remained unanswered and the collection of religious works by Leopold Nowotny was scattered. Several sketches have been saved, as have several unfinished drawings, though according to his designs they do not form any cycle. They are works that show episodes from biblical histories – two graphics from the Old Testament: David playing the harp [fig. 1] and Cain and Abel, other pictures featuring mainly New Testament scenes, including: Announcement, Christ’s Birth, Christ in Martha’s House [fig. 2], Christ and the Wise and Foolish Virgins [fig. 3], Christ Blessing the Wise Virgins, Christ’s Entry into Jerusalem, Christ Carrying the Cross.[2]

The project of creating illustrations for the Bible fits perfectly into the concept of “Bible in pictures” – Bilderbibel, which has a long tradition, and attempts were made to preserve this tradition, modelling it after the old art of the Brotherhood of St Lucas. The first Nazarene who attempted to execute the program of creating a Bible in paintings was Johann Friedrich Overbeck. He was inspired by the ideas of Johan Heinrich Pestalozzi, postulating the return to the naive perception of a child, already in Vienna in 1808 he wanted to create a cycle representing the Bible for the people, and then in 1810–1811 he produced illustrations showing the life of Christ.[3] In 1815, after coming from Rome, the idea of a joint effort was undertaken by a member of the brotherhood named Joseph Sutter to prepare by the group the illustrations to the Bible. In 1819, thanks to the initiative of Carl Barth, the project united such artists as Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld, Johann David Passavant, Samuel Amsler and Johann Friedrich Böhmer.[4] The idea of creating a Bilderbibel was extremely important for the brotherhood, but together they did not accomplish it and they continued the work separately. The first bible illustrated by the Nazarenes – Bilder-Bibel in funfzig bildlichen Darstellungen – was authored by Friedrich von Oliviera and dated 1836.[5] Overbeck also continued working on the expanded cycle of images from the life of Christ, which were, however, issued as a series of graphics in 1846.[6] A realization of the topic of bible histories, Die Bibel in Bildern, was produced by Julius Schnorra von Carolsfeld, who had been preparing it since the 1820s until it was published in 1860.[7] It was very popular in the second part of the century, in Europe as well as in America and Asia. When in 1872 Norwid wrote the words quoted at the beginning of this paper, the idea of an “Illustrated Bible” was known thanks to the efforts of the old members of the Brotherhood of St Lucas.


The biblical illustrations by Nowotny not only fit into the genre brought to life by the Nazarene brothers, but also corresponds to their stylistic spirit. According to the assumptions made by the group, the painter’s resources were used to make the forms of representations more “archaic”. In the compositions the number of figures was, thus, limited and the message was rendered clearer, just as the spatial relations between the figures and the figures themselves are marked by a sharp contour. It is also possible to find particular painting references reflecting the creations of the brotherhood. Christ’s entry to Jerusalem is, thus, depicted in one of Overbeck’s works.[8] One may look for the archetypes for Christ in Martha’s House [fig. 2] in the works of Carolsfeld and Overbeck with the work of the former serving as an inspiration for the composition, the arch that closes it and the model for Christ’s figure, while the limit imposed on the number of people and the reduction of the close-ups brings us closer to Overbeck’s works.[9] In the work Christ and the Wise and Foolish Virgins [fig. 3] Nowotny referred to the spatial division and type of Christ figure depicted in a famous work on that topic by Peter von Cornelius.[10]

Comparing the papers by Nowotny with the works of his masters, it can be noticed that the artist left the “primitivism” of the first Nazarenes aside. The heroes depicted by the Polish representative of the artistic movement are no longer two dimensional “abstract” figures, but more material, and interacting with each other, which brings his works closer to the works of Carolsfeld, Cornelius and the second generation of the Nazarenes. The depictions of biblical scenes by Nowotny are also directed more towards emotional reception, an example of which might be the Christ Carrying the Cross which is close to the “baroque” passion depictions by Joseph von Führich.[11] The creative paths of the Pole were intertwined with the two artists. In 1837–1838 he was in Vienna, after which he went to Munich, where Cornelius and Carolsfeld were professors at academies. The former also fulfilled the function of its long-term director and obtained fame thanks to the fresco Final Judgment in St Ludwig church. In 1842 Nowotny went to Rome, where Overbeck was an unquestioned master of sacred art, and had just finished Religion Triumphs in Art.[12] The works of the Polish painter showing the biblical scenes would perfectly fit the Bilderbibel of the Nazarene movement when it comes to iconography as well as another form important to the Nazarenes, which is verified by historical context, namely, Novotny’s education by painters from the circle from the St Lucas Brotherhood.

Why, however, did Norwid call this collection of biblical works an “Illustrated Bible” and what could have caused the fact that several drawings of a religious nature excited the poet so much? To answer this question, it is worth referring to views on sacred art, especially that created by the brotherhood of St Lucas. Norwid, a painter with his own shop in Rome between 1847–1849, undoubtedly must have met one of the most important artists in Rome – Johan Friedrich Overbeck, a former leader of the St Lucas Brotherhood.[13] In his own creativity the Pole was far from being inspired by the Nazarene movement, which is perfectly shown by the sketch Christ in the Lazarus house in Bretagne (1845).[14] The theme he tackled, which was very important to the brotherhood, was – as mentioned – undertaken by Overbeck, Carolsfeld and Nowotny. One might even look for analogies in the compositions by Norwid to depictions by the aforementioned artists – whether in the theme of arcade ordering of the space of the composition, as rightly observed by Agata Pietrzak,[15] or in the placing of foreground protagonists right across the viewers, parallel to the surface of the painting, according to the principle of clarity of the presented scenery, which was frequently used by the Nazarenes. Despite these analogies, the painting by Norwid is shaped in a different way – it is a multi-figure scene with richly developed backgrounds, drawn by a ragged “nervous” line, which makes the work diverge from the style of the Nazarenes, for whom it was the simplicity of settings expressed by a clear line that was important.

Norwid’s distancing from the art of the Brotherhood of St Lucas, including its leader Overbeck, is also revealed in the critical statements of the poet. Norwid noted even in 1849: “What the author says about Overbeck is true, but Overbeck has barely started and I doubt if he will continue – it is known that this master is of little strength, while the drawing is not showing spiritual truth – it merely points in its direction”.[16] The “author” mentioned by Norwid is probably Karol Libelt, whose text appeared in Dziennik Polski. The critic stated that Overbeck is merely “the only artist starting a new era of Christianity”.[17] Norwid, who shared with Karol Libelt a concept of art based on the triad: Beauty – Goodness – Truth, discerned in the artistic creations of the Nazarenes just assumptions, but cut himself off completely from their aesthetics.[18] He expressed his opinions in the essay Una piccolissima osservazione al illustre autore del ‘Magnificat delle arti’ written in 1852 in Italian, attached to a letter to Michalina Dziekońska.[19] In it, he writes that “Mr Montalembert” and Overbeck are two artists “taking the same position towards art” and it was their views that his essay addressed.[20] The source of the poet’s knowledge about the aesthetics they had developed was – in the case of Charles de Montalembert – the publication Du vandalisme et du catholicisme dans l’art (in a letter described as Sur le Catholicisme et le Vandalisme dans les Arts), issued in 1839,[21] while in the case of the German painter – an explanation of the painting Religion triumphs in art, published in “Kunst-Blatt” in 1841.[22] The views expressed in this anonymous article, inspired by Overbeck, were elaborated in the manifesto Del purismo nelle arti that was supported by a group of purists to which Overbeck belonged.[23] Norwid was clearly distancing himself from it, declaring that he is neither for nor against purists.[24] He remained, however, an admirer of what “with God’s blessing” the “Illustrious Overbeck” created, although he did not admire the form of his work.[25] Interested in the revival of sacred art, the poet shared the ideas expressed by Montalembert and the purists but did not want to follow that direction of religious painting. He remained faithful to this attitude and years afterward he moved away even more strongly from the art of the members of the brotherhood of St Lucas and their followers. He reminisced: “Good old Overbeck was a remainder and an admonishment, but he himself HAD DONE NOTHING – therefore, all those who copy him are completely barren and technical, soon they will realize that they are Egyptians!!”[26]

            Overbeck could therefore set the stage for the “spiritual” direction of art, but his executions were not satisfactory to Norwid. The poet expressed the opinion in his Critiques and artists that Kornel Stattler, “moved farther, I do not mean in art, but in the direction that art should take”.[27] More than Overbeck, he admired his follower – Stattler. He had already expressed positive opinions about him earlier in a letter from Cracow in June 1842. He wrote then, “Mr. Stattler […] executor of deeper ideas, grouping merrily, with inspired experience, but not without creativity – finishes the Maccabees, an altogether exceptional painting” whose content was, in the poet’s opinion, “inspirational for the philosopher, poet, and does not leave any man unaffected”.[28] What moved Norwid in Stattler’s art was the aptly expressed content of the work of art. He clarified in Promethidioni, that the “Author of Maccabees on the Ashes of his Houses and Saint Mary of the Snow felt the importance of national art and gives it proper direction. Orłowski was from this country, yet was not national, he depicted natural things, not the nature of things; he presented what he saw, not what he foresaw”.[29] Stattler, producing religious paintings, was for Norwid a national creator. In the concept of Norwid, real art was religious in nature, although did not have to limit itself to the sacred theme. Therefore, national art should refer to the sacred art, without this reference no activity of creative art could exist.[30] The most important task of art was, therefore, exceeding what is temporary and earthly, and combining it with that which was divine. Nazarene art interested Norwid due to the potential of transcendental interpretation – looking deeper.

            Referring the earthly reality to the divine plan, and the combination of these two perspectives in Norwid’s thoughts about art, can also be found in the concept of the Illustrated Polish Bible. In this perspective these would not be merely illustrations of biblical episodes, but depictions showing the sense of these events. Among the presented “biblical” works by Nowotny, it is difficult to find scenes, which one might directly associate with “Polishness”. Such relevance was, however, ascribed – according to the explicitly expressed intention of the author – to Maccabees by Stattler, seeing, in the presentation of the uprising and the Maccabean martyrdom, a metaphor of the November uprising and the martyrdom of the Polish nation.[31] Norwid could ascribe this “biblical” sense to paintings that were not depictions of either the New or Old testaments, but works of art that “repeated” in the theological sense the living history of salvation, i.e. images of Polish saints. Works of this kind are quite numerous in Nowotny’s output. He depicted, inter alia, St Adalbert, bishop St Stanislaus of Szczepanów, St Stanislaus Kostka, blessed Andrew Bobola and saints from Slavic lands: St Gleb and St Boris. These are both figures of individuals (most frequently), as well as (less often) scenes from their lives. They include – patrons of the Polish nation and state (St Adalbert, St Stanislaus of Szczepanów), as well as saints whose worship was promoted by the Catholic church contemporary to Nowotny – first of all blessed Andrew Bobola, beatified in Rome in 1853, or St Stanislaus Kostka, whose worship developed thanks to the revival of the Jesuit order in 1814.[32]

Nowotny’s collection was one of the widest collections of the Polish saints. The only precedence when it comes to the number of depictions was the decoration in the Golden Chapel in Poznań cathedral. The chapel was design as a mausoleum of the first Polish rulers and the concept came from Edward Raczyński, who described in detail its relevance in the brochure issued in 1841 entitled Report from the tombstone chapel of Mieczyslaw I and Bolesław Chrobry in Poznań.[33] The building was erected on the axis of the bishop’s church, it was elevated on the plan of an octagon and the interior was covered by a dome, on which was shown – as mentioned by Raczyński – “a circle Treasury of Lord’s Saints of the Polish Church”,[34] i.e. representation of Polish saints and beatified: Wojciech, bishop Stanisław, Stanisław Kostka, Saloma, Jolenta, Jadwiga, Wincenty Kadłubek, Jan Kanty, Kazimierz, Jozefat Kucewicz, Jacek and Czesław [fig 4]. It is not known who the author of the designs for the material for these paintings was (created using what was at that time a very novel encaustic technique). The silhouette front-focused depiction and their representation of a hierarchy in the golden background corresponds with the manner of presenting saints in the Nazarene canon and although the author of these paintings remains anonymous, without a doubt he had to be a painter drawing on the Nazarene experiences.[35] It is worth stressing that, as in the case of many depictions, the iconography in Poznań diverts from the traditional one.

 Edward Raczyński as the author of the iconographic program not only selected the particular figures, but also decided on their context. The saints were placed around God the Creator, who, as Raczyński wrote, “blesses the tribe with his raised arm […] into which Mieczysław has instilled the holy belief”.[36] The presence of the saints constitutes, thus, a bridge between the history of Poland and the history of salvation. Below the figures, in the sphere between the dome and the body of the chapel, there are signs referring to the history of Poland: medallions with the coats of arms of the first rulers, primates and most notable families. This is, therefore, the summation of Polish history, the originators of which were the Mieszko I and Bolesław Chrobry. They are the ones to whom the main, lower part of the chapel, separated with arcades, is dedicated. In the niches, there is an altar and on the sides a monument of rulers and a sarcophagus with their remains. Over these two monuments, in the upper part of the arcades, there are two historical paintings referring to the key moments of their rule, i.e. introducing a new religion – a canvas by January Suchodolski Mieczysław I Crushes Waves, and establishing the kingdom – a piece of art by Edward Brzozowski Bolesław Chrobry and Otton III at the grave of St Adalbert[37] [fig. 5]. In the chapel, the history of Poland has, therefore, acquired an eschatological dimension, and the saints present in the history of Poland transcend it into a history guided by God.

There are no reports of the reception of the images of saints in the Poznań dome. It is, however, the first example in Poland of a visual summary of the historical thinking about the times wherein the history of the whole nation in connected with the sacrum. This romantic concept of history was based on the idea of the scholastic concept of time, where particular events constitute only a scene of the history of salvation.[38] This romantic historiosophy was close to the Brotherhood of St Lucas in which, as per the tradition of patrology (especially St Augustine), the bible was read as the history of the world. The paintings historically constructed their semantics in relation to the theological sense of the presented events, an example of which is the Departure of the Caesar Rudolf Habsburg to Basil (1808) by Franz Pforr and its pendant – Christ’s Entry into Jerusalem by Overbeck.[39] This historiosophic movement gained in popularity during the pontificate of George XVI, when the Church lived through a renaissance of scholastic thought and Overbeck became one of the most important artists. Romantic historiosophy also flourished during the early part of reign of King Ludwig I in Munich between middle of the 1820s and the 1830s, after the spiritual upheaval which was brought about by the lectures of Fridrich Schelling in 1827. The community inspired by them centred around the magazine “Eos” – its leading figures were Franz von Baader and Joseph Goerres.[40] They announced the renaissance of Catholicism and the adoption of the Catholic epistemology. Its core was also about the renewal of scholastic thought, according to which the history of the world was the history of salvation. Cornelius also belonged to this circle and he shared the fascination with Schelling. The painter wrote: “I learned a lot from him, from conversing with him. I think that I have not read anything penned by him. Nevertheless, I owe him a lot”.[41] Little wonder that in the “Eos” magazine, Final Judgment was read as a summation-condensation of the history of the world. The conviction that history is moving towards the realization of the Kingdom of God on Earth, and that the vicissitudes of history are “reflective of […] the progress of divine revelation”, are taken from the thoughts of German romantics, characteristic of the historiosophy of Norwid,[42] who attended a lecture by Schelling in Berlin in 1845.[43] Historiosophy and the resulting necessity to defend the Catholic tradition in art was therefore a common theme for both the Nazarenes and for Norwid.

According to the ontological assumptions, the members of the St Lucas brotherhood, and also the purists, considered that the “essence” of the entities and phenomena should be presented and not their material representations. An intrinsic feature of the art created by the Nazarenes and their followers was, therefore, reference to what is visible and to the realm of the spiritual order, via the medium of strict connection to the form of the work of art and its content. The paintings of the Nazarenes were characterized by limiting the mimeticity of the painting and suspending its narrative. Dematerialization of the presented world was to refer to what cannot be perceived. What was presented was not transparent, but gained importance through how, and in reference to what it was painted. The signifiant decided upon the signifié. Therefore, the transparency of the form was lifted, and the anti-naturalism and archaic style of the works of the Nazarenes gained meaning, and what was visible was interpreted not through reference to what is real, but to other paintings. In this way the other, “spiritual”, and not the “terrestrial” order of the world was to be shown. Perceiving the sense of the paining was possible not through analysis of the work, but by experiencing it. This acquisition of semantics by representation via reference to an image based on romantic concepts of history was named by Cordula Grewe “historical symbolism”.[44]

In Polish painting, the Nazarene connection of biblical history and national history was proposed in Maccabee by Slatter. His work was, however, limited to simple allegory, in which the biblical history was read in a national context. Slatter, as per the principle of academic clarity, developed the story, which became a political parallel. Biblical history elevates the political events and the nation – the hero of that event – is the subject of sacralisation.

The Nazarene understanding of history corresponds, however, to the aforementioned work by Brzozowski Bolesław Chrobry and Otton III at the grave of St Wojciech located at the Golden Chapel (Chapel of Polish Kings) in Poznań Cathedral. It shows a new scene in the iconography of Poland – a meeting of two monarchs at the grave of St Wojciech. This work is exceptional due to the Nazarene style – the composition is characterized by additivity; particular figures are almost isolated and the relations between them are not built by narrative, which reduces the mimeticism of presentation, referring it to another “spiritual” reality. According to other criteria of interpretation of the art of the Brotherhood of St Lucas proposed by Cordula Grewe, they might fit into the movement of “historical symbolism”, where formal analogies, consistent with the “archaic” manner of the brotherhood, are semantically translated. The arrangement of the composition of the works by Brzozowski processes the pattern of Adoration of the Magi by Johan Friedrich Overbeck (1813).[45] In the scene of the meeting of Bolesław Chrobry and Otton III near the grave of St Adalbert, the biblical sense of this meeting was shown by references to the paintings of epiphany – including the Overbeck’s executions. Also, the most important function of such a painting was maintained i.e. the religious-historical function, therefore, the encouragement of the recipient to prayer.

As opposed to Overbeck, Cornelius and even Brzozowski, Nowotny did not take up the historical subject, but remained persistently faithful to religious paintings. He claimed: “art today has for me a higher goal […]. I do not work for the world, I do not seek effects and originality that discourages the crowds, but I draw energy from the spirit and devote it to God”.[46] Does this mean that the Illustrated Polish Bible was limited only to the collection of national saints and was devoted to the eschatological that was so important to them and their followers, and which translates the eternal into the political? Such a one-dimensional interpretation would run counter to the essence of Nazarene philosophy of historiosophy – combining the sacred sphere with the profane. It would also go beyond the thinking about the religious representations of Norwid, an example of which may be the illustrations to Bogorodzica, which were said to be a tool in national service.[47] In this view, sacred art would become a political art and the cult of the Holy Virgin Mary gained modern and readable meaning. In this context it is worth looking at Novotny’s works. One might notice here a particular emphasis of the figure of Mary, whose images exceed the evangelical borders and create a small cycle Life of the Holy Virgin Mary, which fits into the family traditions of Mary worship.[48] Similarly, the reference to Mary worship can be found in the Golden Chapel (Chapel of Polish Kings) in Poznań. It is realized in the main altar by the image of Assunta, and by the themes in both historical paintings – in the depth of Brzozowski’s composition one might see a triptych representing the Madonna with Child and in the work by Suchodylski, what stands out is the banner placed in the middle with the image of the Mother of God carried by the monarch’s parade. In the Chapel, the idea highlighted is that Mary worship is related to the beginning of Polish statehood and has a patriotic overtone.[49]

Mary worship in Nowotny’s art was given voice even more significantly in one more artistic creation. The artist produced for General Dezydery Chłapowski in 1847 a painting for the Immaculate Conception Chapel in Turew [fig. 6], the family’s seat of the general.[50] Chłapowski ordered it during his stay in Rome, where under papal care the worship of the Immaculata was undergoing a revival. An important role in its propagation was played by the revelations of Alphonse Marie Ratisbonne, whom Chłapowski was to meet in Rome in 1842.[51] Nowotny presented the Virgin Mary in a frontal fashion in a mandorla, according to the classic iconography of the Immaculata, yet this image has a direct originator – a fresco by Philipp Veit from the Orsinich chapel near the river Tiber in Trinità dei Monti in Rome. The work by Veit was very popular. While there in the 1830s, Brzozowski stated: “before such a painting one may pray”.[52] Limiting the tools of the painter’s expression, while rendering the work in an archaic fashion, Nowotny wanted, just as Veit did, to successfully return to a devotional image. A reviewer in Przegląd Poznański magazine stated that “the entire image is original, it is bright with religious inspiration”.[53] The altar cabinet was to be filled in by figures of saints, which Chłapowski ordered from Norwid. The poet never finished them.

The general, creating a new chapel, referred to the types of rigorousness propagated then by the Holy See and pointed to artists from Rome as potential authors, which was a conscious decision from the artistic point of view. One inspiration for the project by Chłapowski was a trip to Rome. As written by his biographer, priest Walerian Kalinka: “upon returning from Rome, he built a chapel of the Mother of God as a souvenir of the impressions. And from now on, Turew, as said with irony, yet truly, became a ‘chapel near the Wielkopolski Church’”.[54] The general after the visit to Rome as a “private Catholic” – as Kalinka called him – became a leader of the Polish ultramontanes, as liberals who were hostile towards him used to say, or, at least, a person more convinced about the necessity of connecting the matters of religion and state. An important role in the birth of this socio-political concept was played by the Resurrectionist priests and Chłapowski’s brother in law, Jan Koźmian. As observed by the priest Kalina, the general as “was one of the first to evaluate […] the beneficial work of this order […] for Poland […] because it became for it a new link to the Holy See”.[55] Resurrectionists also worshipped the Immaculate Conception. For them the image of the Immaculata was for the first time produced by Edward Brzozowski.[56] Resurrectionists preached conservative ideas bringing together Polish society with the Church, most of all with the papacy, based on which they wanted to build a patriotic Polish camp. The chapel was devoted to the worship of the Immaculate Conception, a dogma announced only in 1854, it may therefore be read as a manifesto of particular conservative and anti-modernist ideological attitudes.

The chapel in Turew, like the Golden Chapel in Poznań (The Chapel of the Polish Kings), is an example of the spread of romantic, yet, conservative ideas. These projects brought together artists whose art corresponded to the ideal assumptions of the principals. In both executions one saw the morning star of Polish art. Kajetan Morawski, while describing to Raczyński the work of Brzozowski, stated: “this painting will leave nothing to be desired and will open a new school of Polish painting, and we will owe it to you for discovering such a talented artist”.[57] Also, another critic, probably Koźmian, reported on the exhibition of Polish Nazarenes in 1847 in Rome, in which Norwid took part: “Looking at their work, we wanted to see if there is potential for a national school”.[58] He did not find it, however. The reality differed from the expectations of the Nazarenes, their advocates and promoters of their activity. Norwid, when commenting on the Illustrated Polish Bible, which was to be created by Nowotny, referred not only to the collection of paintings and graphics, but to a certain design of sacred and national painting, which would allow him to call their author “exquisite master”.[59] The idea of the Illustrated Polish Bible may be another attempt at a sanctifying national history in the art of romanticism, although, as indicated by the Nazarenes and Purists – not only Polish romanticism.


[1] C.K. Norwid, letter to J.B. Zaleski, 11 Jan. 1872, in: idem, Pisma wszystkie, vol. 9, ed. J.W. Gomulicki, Warszawa 1971, pp. 502–503.

[2] The works by Nowotny known from biblical-themed graphics include: King David, transverse woodcut (by S. Baranowski), paper, 23.3×14 cm, National Museum in Cracow, inv. no. III-ryc.-30576, reprint “Wieniec”, 1872, no. 17, p. 144; Cain and Abel, ink, watercolour on paper, 21.6×30 cm, Zakład Narodowy im. Ossolińskich (hereinafter referred to as: ZNiO), inv. no. Ig 5016; Annunciation (before 1858, pen, ink, paper, 16.7×23.8 cm, National Museum in Warsaw (hereinafter referred to as: MNW), inv. no. Rys.Pol.2681; Christ’s birth, after 1844, oil on paper, 18.5×24.3 cm, MNW, inv. no. Rys.Pol.161321; Christ in Martha’s house, 1844, black crayon, pencil on paper, 45.4×32.8 cm, ZNiO, inv. no. Ig 5020; Christ with Wise and Foolish Virgins, 1841, pencil, ink coloured with watercolour on paper, 28.4×43.7 cm, ZNiO, inv. no. Ig 5018; Christ Blessing the Wise Virgins, pencil, ink coloured with watercolour on paper, 28.4×43.7 cm, ZNiO, inv. no. Ig 5019; Christ’s Entry into Jerusalem, pencil, ink coloured with watercolour on paper, 29.3×42.8 cm, ZNiO, inv. no. 5017; Christ Carrying the Cross, engraving. J. Lewicki, aquatint, etching, paper, 15.8×9.4 cm, MNW, inv. no. Gr.Pol.12279.

[3] C. Grewe, Painting the Sacred in the Age of Romanticism, Farnham–Burlington 2009, p. 209.

[4] Ibidem, pp. 215, 217.

[5] Bilder-Bibel in funfzig bildlichen Darstellungen von Friedrich von Olivier, Hamburg 1836.

[6] Darstellungen aus den Evangelien nach vierzig Originalzeichnungen von Friedrich Overbeck, Düsseldorf 1846.

[7] Grewe 2009 (fn. 3), pp. 217–223.

[8] Overbeck started work on the painting Christ’s Entry into Jerusalem in 1808, while still in Vienna. He finished it only in 1824 and it was the first of his first works shown in his home town of Lubeck. The painting was destroyed in 1942; see: M. Thimann, Friedrich Overbeck und die Bildkonzepte des 19. Jahrhunderts, Regensburg 2014, pp. 224–228.

[9] J. Schnorr von Carolsfeld, Christ Blessing the Children, 1822, oil on canvas, 147×107 cm, lost, formerly: Hohe Domstift Naumburg; see: Verlorene Meisterwerke Deutscher Romantiker, eds. G.J. Wolf, München 1931, number 96; J.F. Overbeck, Christ at Martha and Maria’s house, 1813–1816, oil on canvas, 103×85 cm, Berlin Alte Nationalgalerie; see: Thimann 2014 (fn. 8), fig. XXI.

[10] P. von Cornelius, Christ and the Wise and Foolish Virgins, 1813–1819, oil on canvas, 116×155 cm, Kunstmuseum, Düsseldorf.

[11] C. Reiter, Die Kartons von Joseph Führich zu den Kreuzwegstationen in der Johann-Nepomuk-Kirche in Wien, in: Religion Macht Kunst. Die Nazarener, eds. M. von Hollein, Ch. Steinle, exhibition catalogue, Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt, 15 Apr. – 24 Jul. 2005, Frankfurt am Main, pp. 207–209.

[12] B. Hinz, Der Triumph der Religion in den Künsten Overbecks Werk und Wort im Widerspruch seiner Zeit, “Städel Jahrbuch” 7, 1979, pp. 149–176.

[13] M. Nitka, Twórczość malarzy polskich w papieskim Rzymie w XIX wieku, Toruń–Warszawa 2014, part II: Katalog, Cat. no. 52.

[14] A. Melbechowska-Luty, Sztukmistrz. Twórczość artystyczna i myśl o sztuce Cypriana Norwida, Warszawa 2001, pp. 97, 165–166, fig. 81.

[15] A. Pietrzak, Przyczynek do historii niezachowanej kolekcji Michaliny z Dziekońskich Zaleskiej (catalogue of drawings from the National Library), Rocznik Biblioteki Narodowej 43, 2012, p. 180.

[16] C.K. Norwid, Krytycy i artyści, in: Norwid 1971 (fn. 1), vol. 6, pp. 596–597.

[17] [K. Libelt], Artyści, Dzienniki Polski, 1849, (25 Jul.), as quoted in: Norwid 1971 (fn. 1), vol. 4, p. 559

[18] See: D. Pniewski, Między obrazem i słowem. Studia o poglądach estetycznych i twórczości literackiej Norwida, Lublin, 2005, pp. 10–13.

[19] C.K. Norwid, Una piccolissima osservazione al illustre autore delMagnificat delle arti’, in: Norwid 1971 (fn. 1), vol. 6, pp. 395–397.

[20] C.K. Norwid, letter to M. Dziekońska, 9 Aug. 1852, in: Norwid 1971 (fn. 1), vol. 9, p. 173.

[21] Ch. de Montalembert, Du vandalisme et du catholicisme dans l’art, Paris 1839.

[22] [A. Kestner], Overbeck’s Werk und Wort. Ein Aufsatz von einem römischen Kunstfreunde, “Kunst-Blatt”, 1841, no. 33 (27 Apr.), pp. 129–133; see also: B. Hinz, Der Triumph der Religion in der Künsten. Overbecks “Werk und Wort” im Widerspruch seiner Zeit, “Städel Jahrbuch”, 1979, pp. 149–170.

[23] Purism’s Manifesto (Manifesto del Purismo) was prepared by Antonio Bianchini and signed by Johann Friedrich Overbeck, Pietro Tenerani and Tommaso Minardi. Announced in 1842, it established a new religious art base on “pure”, templates of old art, stemming from the spirit. A perfect work that fulfilled these criteria was Disputation of the Sacrament by Rafael; see: D. Vasta, La pittura sacra in Italia nell’Ottocento. Dal Neoclassicismo al Simbolismo, Roma 2016, p. 52.

[24] Norwid wrote: “per me che non faccio partito ni dei puristi, ni dei contra-puristi”; Norwid 1971 (fn. 19), p. 396.

[25] Norwid noted in Una piccolissima osservazione… that he is one of the admirers of what “with God’s blessing” Overbeck did [“uno degli ammiratori di tutto cio che Illustre Overbeck ha fatto con la grazia di Dio”]; as quoted in ibidem, p. 397.

[26] C.K. Norwid, letter to J.B. Zaleski, 22 IX 1872, in: Norwid 1971 (fn. 1), vol. 9, p. 496.

[27] C.K. Norwid, Critics and artists, in: Norwid 1971 (fn. 1), vol. 6, pp. 596–597.

[28] C.K. Norwid, Wyjątek z listu z Krakowa w czerwcu 1842 pisanego, in: Norwid 1971 (fn. 1), vol. 6, pp. 357–358.

[29] C.K. Norwid, Promethidion, in: Norwid 1971 (fn. 1), vol. 6, p. 441.

[30] Pniewski 2005 (fn. 18), pp. 24–26.

[31] Compare W. Suchocki, Mickiewicz i Machabeusze Stattlera, in: Księga Mickiewiczowska, eds. Z. Trojanowiczowa, Z. Przychodniak, Poznań 1998, pp. 117–122; Nitka 2014 (fn. 13), pp. 217–234.

[32] In relation to the renaissance worship of Saint Stanisława Kostka, the room of the saint was decorated in the cloister near the church Sant’Andrea al Quirinale, which was made by Minardi; see: Vatsa 2016 (fn. 23), p. 49.

[33] E. Raczyński, Sprawozdanie z fabryki kaplicy grobowej Mieczysława I i Bolesława Chrobrego w Poznaniu, Poznań 1841.

[34] Ibidem, p. 39.

[35] From Ostrowska-Kębłowska, Dzieje Kaplicy Królów Polskich czyli Złotej w katedrze poznańskiej, Poznań 1997, pp. 117–118.

[36] Raczyński 1841 (fn. 33), p. 39.

[37] Nitka 2014 (fn. 13), pp. 236–237.

[38] R. Koselleck, O rozpadzie toposu “Historia magistra vitae” w polu horyzontu historii zdominowanej nowożytnością, w: Semantyka historyczna, ed. H. Orłowski, transl. W. Kunicki, Poznań 2001, pp. 75–106.

[39] Thimann 2014 (fn. 8), p. 224–228.

[40] For more information about “Eos” and the role of Schelling in its creation see: C. Grewe, The Nazarenes. Romantic Avant-Garde and the Art of the Concept, Pennsylvania 2015, pp. 76–77; see also C. Grewe, Historicism and the Symbolic Imagination in Nazarene Art, The Art Bulletin, 2007, no. 89 (1), pp. 82–107.

[41] Peter Cornelius. Festschrift zu des grossen Künstlers hundertstem Geburtstage, 23. September 1883, ed. H. Riegel, pp. 82–83.

[42] F. Schlegel, Filozofia życia, transl. X. Guenot, Wilno 1840, p. 28; see: A. Lisiecka, Z problemów historyzmu Cypriana Norwida, “Pamiętnik Literacki” 50, 1959, no. 2, pp. 355–356.

[43] S. Morawski, Poglądy estetyczne Cypriana Kamila Norwida, in Studia z historii myśli estetycznej XVIII i XIX wieku, Warszawa 1961, pp. 313–314.

[44] Grewe 2009 (fn. 3), pp. 111–113.

[45] J.F. Overbeck, Adoration of the Magi, oil on board, 49.7×66 cm, Kunsthalle Hamburg; see. Thimann 2014 (fn. 8), fig. XX.

[46] T. Padalica (Zenon Fisz), Listy z podróży, Wilno 1859, vol. 2, p. 140.

[47] C.K. Norwid, letter to J.B. Zaleski, [Aug.? 1871], in: Norwid 1971 (fn. 1), vol. 9, p. 492; Pniewski 2005 (fn. 18), p. 29.

[48] To the paintings of Nowotny presenting Holy Virgin Mary include: Birth, Coronation of the Holy Virgin Mary, Holy Virgin Mary in Mandrola, see fn. 2.

[49] Nitka 2014 (fn. 13), pp. 247–248.

[50] E. Prałat, Turew. Miejsce i sztuka, Poznań 2012, pp. 39–47.

[51] The meeting of Chłapowski and Ratisbonne was described in her memoires by the daughter of the general; see ibidem, p. 45.

[52] E. Brzozowski, letter to W.K. Stattler, Rome, 14 Mar. 1837, Institute of Art of the Polish Academy of Sciences, Special Collection, number 290–I, p. 14.

[53] Current News (Wiadomości bieżące), “Przegląd Poznański” 5, 1847, pp. 245–246.

[54] W. Kalinka, Jenerał Dezydery Chłapowski, Poznań 1885, p. 174.

[55] Ibidem, p. 170.

[56] The painting Immaculata by Brzozowski is in the Church of the Gracious Mother of God in Mentorelli. For the information about the painting I want to thank Wiesława Cichosz.

[57] K. Morawski, Korespondencja z 2 VIII 1839, “Przyjeciel Ludu” I, 1839, no. 8, p. 62.

[58] Wiadomości bieżące, “Przegląd Poznański” 5, 1847, p. 670.

[59] C.K. Norwid, letter to J.B. Zaleski, 11 Jan. 1872, in: Norwid 1971 (fn. 1), vol. 9, p. 502.

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