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Biskup i magowie. W sprawie „Hołdu Trzech Króli” w kaplicy Tomckiego

Miziołek, Jerzy

English Title: The bishop and the Magi: observations on the "Adoration of the Three Kings" in the Bishop Tomicki chapel

In: Nowacki, Dariusz (Hrsg.): Katedra krakowska w czasach nowożytnych (XVI-XVIII w.). Krakau 1999, pp. 33-47 + Abb. 1-14

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Translation of abstract (English)

In contrast to the King Sigismund Chapel (consecrated in 1533) the iconographical programme of the Bishop Piotr Tomicki Chapel (completed in 1535) has not been studied. The centrepiece its programme is the altarpiece depicting the "Adoration of Three Magi". The primary objective of this paper is to investigate preliminarily this painting, which refers to the afterlife of the bishop. Bishop Piotr Tomicki (1464-1535) was educated in Cracow, Leipzig and Bologna, where he received his doctorate in law in 1500. Afterward he spent six months in Rome; on his way back to Poland, he probably visited Florence. He was vice-chancellor of the Kingdom (from 1515), bishop of Poznan (from 1520) and then bishop of Cracow (1524-1535). Due to his fluent Italian as well as his habits and his interest in Italian culture, the bishop was called by his contemporaries "Italus". To the end of his life he maintained strong links with Italy ordering there books and numerous art objects. In the last decade of his life, when his chapel was under construction, he corresponded with Erasmus of Rotterdam and commissioned from Giammaria Mosca (called Padovano) the eucharistic tabernacle for his cathedral, placed "in cornu Evangelii" of the presbitery. From various written sources it is known that among the now lost art objects of the Tomicki chapel are brasses and a bronze grille with the scene of the "Annunciation", commissioned in Nuremberg; stained glass produced in the Netherlands; a tapestry depicting the "Assumption of the Virgin"; and some panel paintings. No longer extant are murals by a Polish painter, Stanislas Samostrzelnik, which adorned the walls and the cupola of the chapel. While both the tabernacle and well preserved tomb of Tomicki were produced by Italians, the altarpiece with the "Adoration of the Magi" was most probably painted by Hans Dürer. It appears to be a version of the partially preserved panel by Georg Pencz depicting "The Adoration of the Magi". Fortunately, Pencz’s panel is also known through a 16th-century copy. "The Adoration of the Magi" in Tomicki’s chapel echoes also the compositions of the same subject from one of Albrecht Dürer’s woodcuts, as well as one of the scenes from the Sigismund Chapel silver altarpiece, which was designed by Hans Dürer in Cracow and executed in Nuremberg. Referring to a number of primary sources, it is argued that the bishop, who favoured both German and Italian artists, wanted in fact to be buried "all’italiana". In Italy there is a group of Renaissance funeral chapels with their altarpieces depicting "The Adoration of the Magi" cases in point include the Bolognini funeral chapel in San Petronio in Bologna and two chapeIs in Florence - the Strozzi chapel at Santa Trinita and that of Guaspare dal Lama at Santa Maria Novella. It is important to add that the same subject adorned also a "pluviale" which Tomicki commissioned in Rome just one year before his death. The bishop is also represented in his tomb kneeling in front of the Madonna with the Child and thus very much like the first of the Magi depicted on the altarpiece. Both in the altarpiece and in the tomb the symbolism of light is clearly marked. In the former there is the star of the Magi from which emanates three long rays; in the latter, the countenance of the Madonna is surrounded by numerous flame-like rays which occur as well on the top of the cyborium commissioned by the bishop. Based on the ideas expressed in some of the letters written by the bishop and those which are to be found in the numerous books possessed by him one can be certain that Tomicki must have been very well versed in the symbolism of light and the meaning of the "stella Magorum". He possessed not only writings by Ficino and a copy of Durandus’ "Rationale divinorum officiorum"; but he also owned books and commentaries by Erasmus of Rotterdam. In order to understand the message of the altarpiece itself, it is sufficient to cite here from Erasmus’ "A short Commentary on Prudentius' Hymn on Jesus' Epiphany" which reads as follows: "[...] the Magi were enthusiastic astrologers, and so he [Christ] attracted them by the sign of the star that shone with its own peculiar light [...] For us he [Christ] was a guiding light, calling us back from the darkness of sin and opening our way to the homeland of eternal light. He came down to us to lead us to heaven. [...] Let him who dies praise his prince, since he is being transferred to a happier life. But that way which will lead straight to eternal life should no longer be called "death", now that Jesus has opened the kingdom of heaven. For those who die in Christ do not die but merely sleep, in bodies that will awake at the voice of the angel". The same ideas about the adoration of the Magi and the afterlife occur in several Polish Renaissance Christmas carols. "The Adoration of the Magi" in the Tomicki Chapel was echoed as early as 1542 in the epitaph of Melchior Sobek, one of the canons of the Cracow Cathedral. Not onIy was this artistically modest panel patterned on the canvas in question, but its meaning, referring to eternal life, is identicaI. The painter - an anonymous artist - repeated aImost exactly the composition of the Tomicki altarpiece. The only difference lies in the fact that it is one of the Magi, the Magi, and not their servant, who points to the star shining in the sky.

Document type: Book Section
Version: Secondary publication
Date Deposited: 17 Feb 2011 13:40
Faculties / Institutes: Research Project, Working Group > Individuals
DDC-classification: Painting
Controlled Subjects: Krakau / Dom / Kapelle des Bischofs Tomicki, Drei Könige, Malerei
Subject (classification): Painting
Countries/Regions: East Europe
Collection: ART-Dok Central and Eastern Europe