A Crucifix in the Chancel Arch of St Florian's Church in Cracow
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The wooden crucifix hung in the chancel arch of St Florian's Church in Cracow has hitherto been considered a Late Gothic work, dating from around 1500. However, during the restoration works in 2004 the conservators discovered the inscription 1703 GEORGIUS HANKIS FECIT on the back of the titulus. The signature leaves no doubt that the figure was sculptured in the early 18th century by Jerzy Hankis (1653 ? - 1715/1716). This is also indicated by the manner of carving the figure, the handling of details, and even the tone of the original polychrome. The significance of the sculpture discussed here is not limited to the inscribed signature and date of execution. This is the earliest known example of the imitation of the stone crucifix in St Mary's (Mariacki) Church in Cracow, which was sculptured by Veit Stoss (Wit Stwosz) for the royal minter Henryk Slacker, most probably in the late 1480s or early 1490s. Thus this figure precedes by almost half a century repetitions of the Stoss Passion in Lukasz Ortowski's paintings. Hankis was inspired by the unusual form of the perizonium carved masterfully by Stoss, the precision and understanding with which he reproduced it attesting to its being closely examined by him. The Slacker crucifix must have made a great impression on Hankis, as is confirmed by the figure of the Crucified Christ which he sculptured for the rood beam in the Dominican church in Tarnobrzeg (before 1706 ?). The two images of Christ on the cross which were carved in Jerzy Hankis' workshop are unquestionable testimony to the inspiring role of Late Gothic art in the Cracow artistic circle around 1700. This feature distinguishes the two works from those representing a classicizing trend in Polish Baroque sculpture, which was popular among ecclesiastical patrons and at the royal court in Warsaw. The sculpture in St Florian's Church will certainly become an important point of reference in studies on early 18th century Cracow sculpture. The stylistic features of the Cracow crucifix by Hankis resemble the rendering of the anatomy in some sculptures executed towards the end of the 17th century in Silesia, Spisz (Zips), and Bohemia. The discovery of Jerzy Hankis' signature has been the second case of this kind in Cracow over the last few years. The crucifix in the chancel arch of St Anne's Church has recently been found to bear the signature of the sculptor Kazimierz Kaliski and the date 1698. These discoveries permit the researchers to look ahead with optimism, as the progressing conservation work may contribute to the solution of important questions concerning attribution and shed more light upon the picture of the Cracow circle of sculptors and woodcarvers, already now slightly less anonymous.
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