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2005 | 6 | 5-18

Article title

Lech Kalinowski and the History of Byzantine Art


Title variants

Lech Kalinowski a historia sztuki bizantyńskiej

Languages of publication



Studying the list of Professor Lech Kalinowski (who passed away on 15th June 2004) works in the book 'Symbolae historiae artium', supplemented with later publications recorded in a volume 'Magistro et Amico...', the authoress points out that the scope of his scholarly interests encompassed both works on medieval and post-mediaval art and research methods in the history of art. He also introduced into the Polish literature on the subject some fundamental ideas concerning Byzantine sacred architecture and historically viewed stylistic changes in painting and ivory reliefs. It was already in his first, monumental work on the medieval Pieta that he specified basic formulations pertaining to a Byzantine component of European culture, to develop them in his later studies on Giotto's oeuvre. In his paper on the Pieta (1953), L. Kalinowski expressed his strong conviction that Byzantine medieval art and the art of the Latin Middle Ages belonged in the same sphere of civilization. He returned to this idea in one of his last papers, where, considering the possibility of depicting the entire history of Western medieval art, he observed that on this question 'it is only known that the fundamental role in the origins and development of Western medieval art was played by ancient - Late Classical and Byzantine - art'. This statement reveals an academic link between Kalinowski and Aby Warburg and at the same time places him next to Erwin Panofsky. Further elements of the relationship between Byzantine and Western art were presented by Kalinowski in his studies of Giotto's oeuvre. In his cyclic academic lectures on Giotto he repeatedly posed the question of the direct dependence of Giotto's works on Byzantine art, exemplifying it with the composition in the Cappella dell'Arena. In a paper on the programme of the Paduan paintings Kalinowski expressed an opinion that they differ from the contemporary Western pictorial art in having two ideological axes: one following the descending order of the Marian and Christological cycles unfolding in registers between two scenes, that is, The Archangel Gabriel Being Charged with His Task on the east wall of the chancel arch and The Last Judgment on the west wall, which mark out the other, horizontal axis. The latter, rightly called the liturgical axis, operates, according to him, when we enter the chapel and our eyes turn in an eastward direction, and, on leaving it, when we take the last look at the west wall. He found the thus identified conception of the programme of the frescoes in the Cappella dell'Arena to have been modelled on Byzantine programmes read in an identical order by Otto Demus and Henry Maguire. Furthermore, he took up the question of Giotto's links with the Byzantine tradition in a short paper on the Trial by Fire scene in the Bardi chapel at the Church of Santa Croce in Florence. All of Kalinowski's scholarly and didactic achievements are marked by a desire to demonstrate in a work of art an inseparable connection between ideas and artistic forms. In the research hierarchy of identifying individual elements of this bond he gave priority to a work of art, which in its internal structure was autonomous and only the interpretation of the ideological sense of this structure related it to the culture of a particular epoch.







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Document type





  • Instytut Historii Sztuki UJ
  • M. Smorag-Rozycka, Uniwersytet Jagiellonski, Instytut Historii Sztuki, ul. Grodzka 53, 31-001 Kraków, Poland


Document Type

Publication order reference


CEJSH db identifier

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