Fourteenth century Nativity scene figures in the convent of the Poor Clares at the Church of St. Andrew in Cracow. Some remarks on their style, dating, iconography and function
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The 14th century sculpture from the area of the historical Lesser Poland does not arouse any considerable interest of the historians of art. The so-called Nativity scene figures from the convent of the order of Poor Clares in Cracow constitutes a representative example of the above. According to Julian Pagaczewski (1902) the figures were sculpted with the endowment of Elisabeth of Poland while she was staying in Cracow as the regent in the years 1370-1375. The others moved the dating to the mid-14th century and associated them with the pilgrimage of Elisabeth of Poland to Aachen in1357 and expressed the view that the Cracovian figures reflect the style represented by the Master of Madonna of Michle, who most likely worked in Brno. In the light of the comments formulated in the paper with regard to the style of the figures, the argument postulated by Pagaczewski that the letter E under the crown supports their dating to the years ca. 1370-1375 does not seem to be valid. The crown under the initial of the daughter of Ladislaus the Short would have much better corresponded with the period, had she been the queen of Hungary. Moreover, these letters manifest features of the Romanesque epigraphs, common in the first half of the 14th century. A separate analysis is required with regard to the decorations in the form of metal applique work which seems to be significant for the proper interpretation of the ideological programme of the Cracovian sculptures. Vine leaves decorating the pedestal obviously relate their meaning to the Passion of Christ. If this is the case then they constitute an interesting example of including the symbols of the Passion in the scene from Christs childhood. As is known, such measures were frequent in mediaeval literature and art.
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