A 'PATRIOTIC CABINET' IN THE WAWEL COLLECTIONS AND ITS AUTHOR JÓZEF KORWIN BRZOSTOWSKI
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Józef Korwin Brzostowski (1826 -1900) was a Cracow sculptor. He was a member of the Society of the Friends of Fine Arts and of the Sculptors and Gilders' Association. His sculptural activity and art restoration date from the beginning of the 1860s. Brzostowski's first large-scale achievement was the conservation of the reliefs and statues of the altar of St John the Baptist in St Florian's Church in Cracow. He engaged in the restoration of two altars in Cracow Cathedral – one of the Holy Trinity and the other of the Virgin of Sorrows. In 1883-1884 he directed renovation work at the so-called Olbracht altar for the Czartoryski Chapel and made its architectural setting. Some of Brzostowski's sculptures are connected with the Rev. Karol Teliga, dean of the Cracow Cathedral Chapter, who commissioned the artist to execute a household altar for his private chapel. After World War II, the Neo-Gothic altarpiece set up in the aisle of the parish church at Swiatniki was identified as the Rev. Teliga's altar. Other works by Brzostowski include the groups of figures placed above the side panels of the St John the Baptist triptych, a grill screen, a window-surround and prie-dieu from St John's Church and convent of the Presentation Nuns, as well as the St John the Evangelist altar sculptured from the artist's own design and still existing in this church. In the variety of objects made by Brzostowski are some pieces of furniture. They include a casket ordered from him by Stanisław Tarnowski and intended for storing a manuscript of Mickiewicz's 'Pan Tadeusz', and a 'Patriotic Cabinet', lavishly decorated with drawings engraved on bone. These scenes relate to the January Rising of 1863. Brzostowski made use chiefly of Artur Grottger's works grouped in his best-known cycles devoted to the Rising, such as 'Polonia and War' and the 'Warsaw I' cycle commemorating the events of 1861. He also executed some portraits, including a small plaster medallion depicting a bust of Kazimierz Pulaski, and a bust of Helena Modrzejewska. A closer look at Brzostowski and analysis of his artistic achievements permit his characterization as an able and versatile artist. The sculptor's engagement in the renovation of monuments of Gothic sculpture deserves particular attention, as it shows his conscientious approach to his task. As an artist he was a skilful woodcarver but of imitative rather than creative abilities.
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