Painting and Sculpture from the 16th to the 18th Century

The history of painting and modern sculpture collection of the National Museum in Szczecin dates back to the 19th century and is related to the activity of the Society of History and Antiquities of Pomerania (Gesellschaft für Pommersche Geschichte und Altertumskunde), as well, as, established before the Second World War, first Szczecin museums. These collections consist mainly of artworks related to the most important stages of the history of Western Pomerania, starting from the 16th century, the age when court art flourished in the Duchy of Pomerania, through rough period of Swedish and Brandenburg rule after the division of the Duchy in 1648, to the 18th century and Pomerania’s artistic dependence on the Kingdom of Prussia, into which it was incorporated.

During the Second World War these collections became in large part dispersed. After its end, Polish museum professionals began to secure and recover the collection, as well, as to enlarge it with new acquisitions. On account of these efforts, the collection of the Pomeranian art is systematically increasing. Besides, the collection has been enriched with works not related directly to Pomerania, created mainly by German, Italian and Dutch artists. The most precious postwar acquisitions are: allegoric portrait of Philip II of 1608, purchased in London in 1978 and a painting entitled St. John the Evangelist by Napolitan artist Bernardo Cavallino made in 1635–1640, purchased in local art market in 1976.

The modern turn in Pomeranian art occurred as the result of transitions, which happened in Western Pomerania after introducing Reformation in 1534. In that period, the role of main patron of the art was played by the court. Artists related to it changed the face of art in Pomerania. One of the most precious paintings of this collection is the portrait of Pomeranian duke Philip I of 1541 by the most outstanding representative of German Renaissance Lucas Cranach the Younger. Particular attention is deserved by stone portrait of Philip I made in 1546 by famous Berliner sculptor and medallist Hans Schenck (also known as Scheusslich), an early example of mannerist art in northern Europe. A unique artwork is also a 7-meter-long painting The Family Tree of Pomeranian Dukes by Cornelius Krommeny, 1598, showing images of as many, as 155 persons from the House of Griffins. Purchased in London, painting by Szczecin’s artist Pancratius Reinicke The Glorification of Duke Phillip II of 1608 is an interesting, allegoric image of the duke as ideal ruler following, most of all, wisdom, justice and harmony.

Paintings of around 1577 from a pulpit of the Szczecin castle church are related to the dukes’ patronage. They refer to, crucial for Protestant religion, importance of word of God for salvation. Precious examples of Protestant art are also: a monumental altarpiece from Gryfino painted by court artist David Redtel in 1580, or Renaissance stone baptismal font from Nieborowo with image of four Evangelists and St. Peter and Paul on hexagonal upper part (second half of the 16th century). A large group are also Protestant painting epitaphs, including an epitaph with a portrait of a man with a rose against a background of Resurrection scene painted after 1627, and an epitaph with Last Judgment scene of 1661 in a richly carved frame.

After the perishing of the House of Griffins and Thirty Years’ War the Duchy of Pomerania was divided between Sweden and Brandenburg. Artistic activity in the lands of Pomerania,  deprived of authonomy, distinctly flagged. Few relics have survived from that time. Among artworks related to the Protestant culture, the following stand out: a relief illustrating the Agony in the Garden, 1657, from St. John’s church in Szczecin and a group portrait of the representatives of the board of St. Gertrude community in Szczecin from 1666.

Political situation of Western Pomerania, incorporated to Prussia in the 18th century, determined further artistic development. Vital influence of Berlin, the capital of the Kingdom of Prussia, and its classicistic tastes are reflected in sculptures related to architecture of Szczecin, which was being extended at that time as a Prussian stronghold. The collection includes a group of reliefs from the Parnica Gate – a part of the city fortifications – that were made by Bartholomé Damart, a French sculptor working for the king of Prussia Frederick William I.

Precious supplement of the modern art collection is a group of paintings originating from Italy and the Netherlands. Among Italian artworks, two, that stand out, are: The Return of the Prodigal Son from the first half of the 17th century by an artist imitating Francesco Barbieri (vel Guernico), who worked in Rome and Bologne and mentioned St. John the Evangelist by Bernardo Cavallino. The Dutch art is represented by, most of all, The Widow's Mite painted in early 17th century by an imitator of Hans Vredeman de Vries and, elaborate formally and in terms of content, The Grand Kermess,1610, by Amsterdam painter David Vinckboons.