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- Date of production 19th century
- Dimensions height: without the frame: 38 cm, with the frame: 45.8 cm, width: without the frame 29.8 cm, with the frame: 39 cm
- ID no. E/106/MT
- Object copyright The Dr. Tytus Chałubiński Tatra Museum in Zakopane
- Digital images copyright © all rights reserved, Tatra Museum
- Digitalisation RDW MIC, Małopolska's Virtual Museums project
Our Lady of Mariazell is one of the most broadly used images of St. Mary that can be found in paintings on glass. Legend has it that in 1157 a Benedictine monk from the abbey in St. Lambrecht set out with his pastoral mission to the vicinities of this Austrian town. He was accompanied by the figure of Our Lady with Baby Jesus sculpted in the lime-tree wood.more
This folk painting depicting Our Lady with Baby Jesus is completed in the colour stained glass technique on a thin and uneven glass pane with the use of oil paints. This technique involved painting in stages at the reverse side of a transparent painting base, starting from outlines and other details of depiction, through the laying of transparent and semi-transparent paint layers and then opaque paint layers, to finish the background.
The painting comes from the 19th century, and its author and place of completion are unknown. The object was bought between 1902 and 1913 in the Podhale village of Chochołów by collector Bronisława Giżycka. Bronisława Giżycka (1867–1921), member of the Folklore Section of the Tatra Society, as well as the Tatra Museum Society. In the years 1902–1914 she gathered a rich collection of objects of ethnographic value, including a large number of paintings on glass from the entire Podhale region. She sold this collection in 1921 to the Museum of Industry in Kraków (today’s collections of the National Museum in Kraków). Bronisława Giżyczka also sold her paintings to other collectors.
In 1913 the object on display was bought by Konstanty Stecki (1885–1978), botanist, teacher, environmental protection activist, member of the Nature, Folklore and Tatra Protection Section of the Tatra Society. In the years 1911–1914 he collected objects related to folk culture in Podhale, Spiš and Orava. Apart from the colourful ceramics, metal and wooden objects and outfit elements, this collection comprising 207 objects included a large number of paintings on glass. The collector was particularly interested in this type of folk art, and became acquainted with 500 glass paintings that could be then found in Zakopane both in the collections of the Tatra Museum and in private collections. Considering the method of painting, type of ornament used, colour scheme, glass size and its framing, Konstanty Stecki distinguished between three kinds of paintings which he called Spiš-Podhale, Orava and factory-made kinds. The painting on display depicting Our Lady with Baby Jesus was not qualified to any of the above-mentioned groups. The author considered the painting as new due to the good condition of both the glass and the painting layer. As a result of research works, a dissertation on the Tatra regional glass paintings (the first one in Poland) was written in 1914 and published in 1921 in the first issue of Rocznik Podhalański (Podhale Yearbook) published by the Dr. Tytus Chałubiński Tatra Museum in Zakopane.
In 1921 the objects collected by Konstanty Stecki were bought by the Tatra Museum in Zakopane. The 82 paintings that can be found there is the greatest private collection that supplements the Museum’s collection of historical paintings on glass, which is currently composed of 462 exhibits.
The history of the painting on glass technique dates back to antiquity, but in the rural settlements these kinds of paintings did not become popular until the end of the 18th century. The centre of glass paintings concentrated usually near glassworks could be found in many places in Europe, including Poland. The paintings for rural recipients were painted by craftsmen belonging to guilds, family workshops and travelling painters. The paintings were mostly devoted to religious themes. They were fashioned after popular devotional prints and church fair drawings. While copying, the original scheme was often simplified with the omission of many elements that were often of great importance for the iconography of the image.
The painters often made their own paints by grinding them and joining them with an oil varnish. The contours were painted with fast-drying watercolours. The paintings were sold at markets, fairs, in the pilgrimage centres, and often through travelling salesmen.
There is no documented information about paintings on glass in the Polish Tatra region in the 19th century. The paintings found in the highlanders’ cottages in Podhale, Spiš and Orava came from the workshops located near the glassworks in Slovakia, Moravia, Bohemia and Silesia.
In the cottages they were placed behind the balustrade of the plank shelf or hung on the walls.
Depending on the household wealth, their number ranged from several to several dozen in a single house. The most popular images depicted the images of Mary, Christ and patron saints. The least numerous secular objects depicted robber-style images.
At the end of the 19th century paintings on glass started to go out of fashion and were later replaced by printed images. This coincided with the interest of the intelligentsia representatives in the local culture that resulted, among other things, in the establishment of private collections. At first, paintings on glass did not raise great enthusiasm among collectors, which is evidenced by the scarcity of such heritage objects in the oldest collections since the 1880s. The situation changed at the beginning of the next century, when a developed interest in folk art was apparent.
In the inter-war period artists related to the Zakopane environment made their attempts at painting on glass, but it was not until after World War II that this field of art flourished in the Polish Tatra region.
The described painting depicts Our Lady holding Baby Jesus in her left arm, and a gold sceptre in her right hand. The centrally-placed figure of Madonna with Baby Jesus fills nearly the entire surface of this rendition. The composition elements are outlined with a black contour, which is slightly thinner at the face and hand section and thicker in the remaining sections. St. Mary is shown with a full-face, dressed in a long red robe fastened with a golden belt and girded in the lower part with a gold chain with a large rosette in the middle. The whole figure is covered with a broadly spread maphorion in blue-sapphire vertical stripes. Our Lady’s face is turned to the Child she is holding in her arm. Jesus is rendered in a half-profile wearing a long, dark green robe with visible bare feet. He is touching Mary’s face with his right hand and holding a golden orb in his left hand. There are arched golden crowns on their heads. Around Mary’s maphorion are green and red painted rays, a cumulous cloud and a golden half-moon with a human profile. The clean white background does not compete with the image. The painting’s intensive colour scheme, rhythmic hatching system of robes, decorations on Mary’s veil and the rays around her figure similar to flower petals make the rendition highly decorative. This effect is reinforced with the flower ornaments in the painting's corners.
The depiction draws upon the apocalyptic vision of St. John which features a sun-lit woman with a moon under her feet. The sun-shaped robe symbolises the proximity of God and the richness of His gifts, and the moon under her feet stands for purity and victory over sin.
The described painting is one of the two images painted according to the same model that can be found in the Tatra Museum collections.
When looking closely at the painting, one can observe an unevenness of the window pane in several places and some swelling of the surface. These properties characterise the poor quality of glass which was bought by the painters who made glass paintings, because of lower prices. These defects were the source of unintentional, additional value and contributed to the greater shine of the glass pane.
On closer inspection of the painting one can notice the yellowed note with the collector’s name placed in the window cut out in the lower right corner of the frame. In this way Konstanty Stecki marked all his paintings on glass in his collection (except for one where the frame was probably changed). Apart from marking his collection, the collector kept a notebook where he wrote down information about the objects he bought that were sometimes accompanied by accurate drawings or photographs.
Elaborated by Anna Kozak (The Dr. Tytus Chałubiński Tatra Museum in Zakopane), © all rights reserved