Mediaeval art

The collection of mediaeval art, history of which dates back to the 19th century, is one of the most precious ones in the National Museum in Szczecin. Its crucial part are works collected by the Society of History and Antiquities of Pomerania (Gesellschaft für Pommersche Geschichte und Altertumskunde), which were among the collections of pre-war Provincial Museum of Pomeranian Antiquities (Provinzialmuseum Pommersches Altertümer), evacuated during the Second World War. After its end only part of the collection was found in storages in Pomerania. Many of the works taken to the USSR returned to the museum within regaining action in 1956. After the war the collection was supplemented with, among others, objects given to the museum by nearby, frequently devastated, churches, as well, as museum in Drawsko, dissolved after the war. Despite losses, it is still the richest collection of mediaeval Pomeranian art.

The collection consisnts mainly of works of Pomeranian church art. They illustrate almost all aspects and stages of history and culture of middle ages in Western Pomerania, beginning from the 12th cenruty, when, in 1120s the Christianization process came to an end, to 1530s – a period when protestant movements and modern art began to appear. Diversity of styles among the works illustrates the development of ideological-artistic tendencies which  influenced Pomeranian art of that time – from transitory style, which combined features of late Romanesque and early Gothic, through height of Gothic and international Gothic to Realism and late-mediaeval naturalistic and manneristic streams.

Location at the seaside, at the intersection of important trade routes and influence of economically strong centres around the Baltic Sea, where newest art trends reached, spred by numerous travelling workshops, had crucial meaning for the art of the region. As long, as to the middle 14th century, the dominant role was played by Scandinavia, especially Gotland – at that time trade power of the Baltic Sea, with numerous woodcarving and masonry workshops. Two monasteries, the most important for the development of Christianity in Pomerania, were the carriers of artistic influences. They were Cistericians coming from Denmark (Esrøm, 1174) and Premonstratensians from Lund in southern Sweden. The works of that period, mostly probably imported, are related mainly to architecture or equipment of first churches and orders. Two 13th century statuettes from Gardno of a little geometrical form, early-mediaeval edes sapientiae type, illustrating Mary with the Child on the throne in strictly frontal, hieratic pose, bear testimony of early appearance of the cult of St. Mary in Pomerania and long lasting presence of traditional types of representations in Scandinavia. Two objects are characteristic for Gotlandic masons. They are two Romanesque baptismal fonts with straight, harmonious proportions. One of them originates from Wrzosowo, the second, later – around 1300 – from Lubliana.They are decorated with low reliefs of dragons. An extraordinarily precious relic is a group of capitals of columns originating from presently non-existent Cisterician monastry in Kołbacz, formally and stylistically corresponding to Gotlandic masterpieces of crowning stage of development of local art of transitory period. A late work of Gotlandic workshop from Visby is fullyearly-Gothic, referring to Cologne court style, sculpture of Mary with the Child from Bienice, ca. 1330.

The jewel of the collection is the Crucifix from Kamień Pomorski, also referring to court style, but originating from the height of Gothic, having different artistic genesis and being a part of continental cathedral visual art of 13th century.

The beginning of Gothic in Western Pomerania dates from middle 14th century. Development of Gothic art, dominating in mediaeval collection of the Szczecin Museum, results mainly from increase in wealth of Pomeranian cities belonging to Hanseatic League, and from popularization of the cult of, among other, local saints. The prevailing artworks are the church ones related to St. Mary (especially images of Mary with the Child), to Christ (mainly to Christ's Passion – crucifixes from cathedral arches or  low reliefs of, among others, altarpiece from Wkryujście), and to the saints (among them images of St. Jacob and St. Anne with the Virgin and Child were particularly popular). The most numerous are sculptures, made of local oak or alder wood, originating from altarpiece retables, of which frequently only single saints' statuettes have survived. Paintings which deserve particual attention are reverses of altarpiece wings, presenting, among others, scenes related to St.Mary and the Passion and the representation of Baptism of Jesus from the altarpiece from Stargard, as well, as ones that illustrate the legend of St. Jacob from Kołobrzeg triptych or painting by North-German workshop influenced by Master of Schöppingen, illustrating the Martyrdom of St. Peter, from church in Buk.

The Hanseatic City of Lübeck was cultural and artistic centre of the area by the Baltic Sea in Gothic period. Together with Northern Germany and Pomerelia it influenced Pomeranian Gothic art up to the end of the 15th century, when, by way of travelling workshops from South-German centres, late Gothic innovations began to reach the North. A master working in numerous Hanseatic cities was famous German bell-founder Jan Apengeter, with whom two bronze door knockers are associated: one from Kołobrzeg, with lion’s head and one from Szczecin, with griffin’s head (the Museum collection has its copy of 1823; the original has lost during the Second World War) created between 1330 and 1344. International Gothic, developing in Pomerania in the first half of the 15th century, is characterized by idealization, smooth outlines, complicated poses, lyrical atmosphere of the presentations and gentle face expressions. It is represented by Beautiful Madonna from Żarnowo, associated with the activity of workshops of Gdańsk. A precious example is also an alabaster statue of Mary with the Child from Bukowo Morskie, being an example of import, probably from Württemberg. An artwork originating from that period is also Our Lady of Sorrows from Trzebiatów, referring to the output of early 15th century Gdańsker Jan van der Matten.

Among the examples of late Gothic style of the second half of the 15th century there are Neumark triptych from Radunia and work of South-Pomeranain workshop – triptych from Lubowo. At the end of the 15th century dynamically acting wood carving workshops appeared in Pomerania. Their output, inspired by late-Gothic Dutch realism, origins from the art of southern Germany and neighbouring Mecklenburg and Neumark. It is dominated by two tendencies. Realism close to Renaissance art is represented by works by Master of the Passion from Chociwel: Calvaire from Chociwel, numerous altarpiece sculptures and, typical for the workshop, triptych of St. James the Greater from Kołobrzeg. Expression and idealization giving mannerist features to the forms, characterizes works related to Master of the Passion Altarpiece from Dąbie Szczecińskie and Master of the Altarpiece of St. Peter and Paul from Szczecin, who acted mainly in Szczecin and its surroundings.