Collection of Old Sculpture
The Collection of Old Sculpture contains 1190 exhibits of two types – original and unoriginal. The original ones were created by sculptors working from the 16th to the early 20th century, while the unoriginal pieces are casts or replicas of international and Polish masterpieces created in non-authorial studios from the 18th to the 20th century. The accumulation of original sculpture features works representative of all the main tendencies in Polish and European sculpture. The majority of the oldest Renaissance exhibits have been obtained from private people as gifts or purchases. The collection of foreign sculpture from the 18th century onwards mostly includes French works.
The collection features works originating from the most important sculpture centres in the old Polish Republic. The oldest exhibits were donated to the Museum in the interwar period. Wooden sculptures dominate amongst the oldest works coming from sculpture studios in the old Republic. Many of them remain unattributed because research on Old Polish woodcarving is less advanced than on stone sculpture. Wooden sculpture was made in specialised workshops and it is only younger generations of researches that have decided to explore their output.
Through several donations and purchases the Museum managed to obtain works of great value. In 1937, an artistically perfect and very well preserved Immaculata was bought. The piece comes from the Convent of the Nuns of the Visitation in Warsaw. It is associated with a big studio run by the sculptor Bartłomiej Bernatowicz in Warsaw New Town, which received the most commissions from churches in Warsaw in the first quarter of the 18th century. Any doubts must be dispelled by the unique Italianizing manner developed by Bernatowicz in Prague and Silesia. Equally interesting, though difficult to attribute, are works from the capital, the oldest Warszawska płaskorzeźba ze Św. Rodziną [Warsaw Low Relief with the Holy Family] from 1692 (donated to the Museum before the war) as well as a wooden sculpture entitled Archanioł Michał depczący diabła [Saint Michael the Archangel Stepping on the Devil], purchased in an auction house.
The last link of the old sculpture, and the Lviv sculpture can be regarded as such, is exemplified by virtuosic figures rightly attributed to Antoni Osiński’s studio and, with a degree of doubt, to Sebastian Fesinger. Acquired in August 1939, the figures of Saint Clara and Saint Anthony are ascribed to the latter due to their similarity to sculptures in the Observants Church in Lviv. As in the case of many works associated with this artist, premises are insufficient. Deposited before the war, figures of the Apostles Peter and Paul and Saint Augustine the Bishop reveal a unique style and artistic mastery of Osiński, while Christ in the Clouds was donated by Xawery Dunikowski.
Objects totaling 281 are considered as lost in the war, while many sculptures have been handed over to other institutions by means of ownership transfer or as permanent deposits.
Text by Łukasz Pisarzewski
D. Kaczmarzyk: Rzeźba europejska od XV do XX wieku [European Sculpture from the 15th to the 20th century], Warsaw 1962; Rzeźba polska od XVI do początku XX wieku [Polish Sculpture from the 16th to the early 20th century], Warsaw 1973
Kębłowski J., Renesansowa rzeźba na Śląsku 1500-1560 [Renaissance Sculpture in Silesia 1500-1560], Poznan 1967, pp. 129-172