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Artur Kolbiarz

The Early Baroque Sculpture in Lower Silesia and Johann Georg Bendl

There are numerous examples of artistic ties between Silesia and Bohemia in the early modern era. Early Baroque sculpture was significantly influenced by a leading artist in Prague – Johann Georg Bendl. This influence is especially apparent in sculptural work that was commissioned at that time for monasteries. During the temporary crisis faced by urban centres in the second half of the 17th century it was artists working for monasteries who shaped the style of Lower Silesian sculpture of that time. Matthäus Knote from Legnica, who was trained around 1660 in Prague, probably by Bendl himself, was the first sculptor in Silesia to fully make use of Early Baroque stylistic techniques. He was the author of the two oldest Marian columns in the region (both in Lubiąż, 1670) and of the pulpit in the Church of Peace in Jawor (1670–1671). After Knote’s death his workshop was taken over and moved to Lubiąż by a distinguished Austrian artist, Matthias Steinl. Under his direction, sculpture in Lubiąż evolved in the direction of High Baroque Flemish art. However, some works – thanks to assistants who came to Lubiąż from Knote’s workshop – was still strongly rooted in the tradition of Prague sculpture. The most important of these works was the main altar in Lubiąż Abbey (1681), featuring sculptures that represent a synthesis of Knote’s and Steinl’s styles. An anonymous assistant from Lubiąż continued to use the formal techniques he had learned earlier when he began working independently (for example, in the pulpit created by this anonymous assistant for the church in Starczow in the 1680s). Thanks to Lubiąż’s connections the stylistic techniques of Prague sculpture also reached Franz Georg Zeller, who worked for many years for the Norbertines in Wrocław (where he created a pulpit in the Church of St Vincent in 1678). Another group of figures inspired by Bendl’s achievements decorates the post-Jesuit church in Świdnica. Sculpted by several artists before the arrival of Johann Riedl (1692), this group of figures refers in various ways to works found in churches in Prague. Bendl’s influence on Lower Silesian sculpture had disappeared completely by the end of the 17th century, giving way to new inspirations from High Baroque art.

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