Frescoes by Josef Franz Piltz in the Former Trinitarian Church in Cracow
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The set of illusionistic paintings preserved in the former Trinitarian church (today the Church of the Hospitallers) in Cracow, one of the most interesting in Little Poland (Malopolska), deserves a separate study for various reasons. The frescoes painted by a Moravian, Josef Franz Piltz, in 1757 and 1758, cover the vaults of the nave and chancel as well as the walls and vaults of the side chapels. An observation made on the monumental fresco on the barrel vault of the nave, whose composition was found to closely recall the painting by Franz Xaver Karl Palko, a student of the Viennese Academy, in the high altar of the Trinitarian church in Bratislava, was fundamental to the correct interpretation of the artistic associations of the Cracow work (Garas, 1987). It seems that to this end Piltz, who may have seen Palko's painting, made use of an engraving executed after this painting by Franz Leopold Schmittner. The way in which Piltz adapted the composition of an easel painting to the requirements of an illusionist vault picture seems particularly interesting. The frescoist appears to have referred to Giovanni Battista Tiepolo's concept (vault fresco, Institution of the Rosary, 1738-1739, Venice, S. Maria dei Gesuati) and set individual elements of Palko's composition against an original structure of monumental stairs which appears in the above-mentioned Venetian fresco. In addition, Piltz's polychrome is testimony to his being rooted in the Moravian artistic culture (direct relations with the studios of two outstanding Moravian fresco painters Johann Georg Etgens and Johann Christoph Handke). In the Assumption fresco Piltz also referred to his own, Moravian experience (The Trinitarian church at Holesov, where he had introduced a similar or identical repertory of poses), whereas in his illusionist altars he followed the type popularized by Pozzo's treatise. Piltz, a provincial artist, exhibiting nevertheless a sound technical background and quite an individuality, made an attractive and successful compilation of patterns. The set of paintings decorating the Trinitarian church in Cracow's Kazimierz surpasses his earlier works in concept and scale and was soon to be imitated (Jozef Prechtl's fresco on the vault of the chapel in the Trinitarian church at Brahitow (ca. 1770). Moreover, the set of the Trinitarian frescoes is an excellent testimony to the mechanisms characteristic of the artistic life in Little Poland at that time. The activity of the frescoists from the neighbouring Moravia and Silesia almost totally dominated 18th century monumental painting and determined its character.The use of the information contained in the Protoculum (Protoculum huius Conventus Casimiriensis Ordinis Discalceatorum SS. Trinitatis Redemptionis Captivorum A.Dni 1692 di - ad 1797, mss, Bibl. Jag. sygn. 5844), a chronicle kept in the Cracow Trinitarian monastery throughout the 18th century, made it possible to carry out a thorough study of the history of the frescoes and to recall the role played in this undertaking by the general of the Trinitarian Order, Father Stanislaw Oborski who presumably also formulated the ideological pragramme of the Trinitarian polychrome..
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