THE SILVER ALTAR OF DARLOWO. HISTORY, CONSERVATION, DISPLAY (Srebrny oltarz darlowski. Historia, konserwacja i eksponowanie)
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The silver altar of Darlowo is regarded as one of the exceptional works of Pomeranian art. Its founder was Duke Philip II (1573-1618), the prime patron of the arts to mount the throne of the Gryfici dynasty. The altar, 309 x 156 cm large, was executed in the Mannerist style, in the form of a triptych. The central part was composed of an ebony retabulum featuring 27 meticulously executed silver plaques comprising an excellent example of European Manneristic goldsmithery. The side wings (which in the past did not always constitute an integral part of an altar) were composed of paintings on both sides. The whole composition was embellished with silver and partly gilt applications, i.a. in the form of flowers, circles, and heads of putti. The cornices of the crowning were additionally decorated with alabaster figurines. The altar was completed in thirty years (1606-1636), with successive goldsmiths dying and ruling dukes - changing. The silver plaques were made up to the death of Philip II in 1618. Duke Boguslaw XIV and his wife, Elisabeth, commissioned the ebony retabulum. To 1806 the altar enhanced the castle chapel in Darlowo and then was transferred to the church of the Holy Virgin Mary. At the end of the WW II it was disassembled and the silver plaques were concealed in a bank safe in Slawno. Unfortunately, they were ultimately lost together with other valuable objects. During the 1950s seven silver bas-reliefs were discovered in Zamosc, and in time were handed over to the National Museum in Warsaw. In the 1960s, due a reorganization of the museums of Central Pomerania, the ebony retabulum found itself at the Museum of Central Pomerania in Slupsk. Subsequently, the plaques were also entrusted as a deposit to the same museum. Up to this day. the extant fragments of the altar include the ebony base, parts of the wings, eight out of a total of 27 silver plaques, as well as several silver applications. Until recently many of the wooden fragments were damaged, but complicated conservation managed to restore the original appearance of the ebony retabulum which, for the first time in sixty years, was made available to the public visiting the Museum of Central Pomerania in Slupsk during a Night of the Museums. Various conservation difficulties and the considerable size of the missing parts produced a question about their display. In the case of museum exhibits concern for the original is a predominant issue and a reconstruction of the missing silver plaques is not being considered. The same holds true for the silver applications. At present, the museum workshop includes the altar wings. The question of presenting the whole altar will emerge after the conservation of the wings, since the framing of the central part, to which they were attached, has not survived; more, two panels with paintings executed on both sides are also missing. The display of sacral exhibits should be preceded by a discussion about pertinent issues and associated conservation-restoration undertakings. The final decision concerning the presentation of the altar has not been made and will follow the completion of the conservation of the wings.
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