Baroque sculptures in front of the Jesuit College, Kutná Hora, Czech Republic

florian 2 jezuitska

Adress:
Jezuitská kolej, Barborská ulice 51 -53, 284 01 Kutná Hora
Description of work:
Restoration work
Investor:
The Town of Kutná Hora
Contractor: GEMA ART GROUP a.s.
Implementation: 05/2005 – 10/2006

 

 

 

  • History
  • Restoration work
  • More information

 The low wall, which forms the base for the sculptures created in the first half of the 18th century, is an integral architectonic feature of the site where the Jesuit College in Kutná Hora is located. The College itself was built according to plans by the architect Giovanni Domenico Orsini. The construction took several decades (from 1667 till 1750, when the whole complex was finally finished).
There are altogether 13 sculptural groups depicting saints positioned on the wall, together with 10 stone urns with floral ornamentation and 2 sculptures of angels flanking the sculptural group of St Wenceslas. Most of the sculptures originate from the years 1707 to 1716. The dates are confirmed on most of the sculptures by a chronogram on their plinth. The sculptures are attributed to the sculptor and carver František Baugut (1668 – 1725) of Vartenberk.
The style and iconography of art associated with the Jesuit Order was influenced by several factors. The nature of the artwork was determined by the decree De invocatione, veneratione, Reliquiis Sanctorum, sacris imaginibus issued at the Council of Trident in 1563, in regard to the respect accorded to image making founded on deep religious traditions. It was also based on the teachings of the founder of the Order, Ignatius of Loyola, who thought that a man can surmise the connections between individual artistic subjects, which, taken together, bear influence on the believer during his spiritual meditations. The Jesuits thus had theologically worked out designs for artwork connected to their order. The style and the sacred subjects of art in individual parts of the church were based on the significance of the concrete mysteries of the faith. In the entrance the subject of apostles and martyrs often occurs, in the middle part of the church the theme of Christ and around the main altar the depiction of the Holy Trinity.
The sculptures in the front of the Jesuit College in Kutná Hora are a typical example of this carefully ordered iconography of the Jesuit Order. Jesuit art often reflected the locations where the order worked and here we find the sculptural groups of St Wenceslas and St John of Nepomuk. Another universally popular saint of the Czech lands was St Florian and he is also included among the sculptures in front of the college. Other favourite saints of the Jesuit iconography were St Barbara and St Francis Xaverius, patrons of Peaceful Hour of Death. The Jesuits also revered patron saints of good agricultural crops and saints guarding against inclement weather. They introduced into the Czech lands St Isidore, patron saint of agriculture, and used his cult to gain favour with the inhabitants of the countryside. Several saints in the Jesuit iconography were monks of the order, who played a significant role in its history. In the case of the Jesuit College in Kutná Hora these are represented by the sculpture of St Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus and St Francis Borgia, Commissary General of the Order in Spain and its promoter in South America.
Other motifs, appearing in the Jesuit iconography, are less obvious. The Jesuit Order often strived to gratify its benefactors, as is shown in the subject choice for the sculptures in front of the College. As an example, there is a sculpture of St Joseph Calasanctius, founder of the Piarist Order. The only reason for the presence of the sculpture here was the express desire of the Trauttmansdorf family, who underwrote its cost. Another example of a sculpture, which appears out of context here, is the depiction of St Louis, the French king and participant of two Crusades, who was considered a promulgator of the Christian faith. The Jesuit Order played a significant part in the re-establishment of the Catholic faith in the Czech territory after the Battle of White Mountain in 1620, and this probably represents the connection to the efforts of St Louis. Charlemagne, the King of the Franks and later Emperor of the Romans, is not included in the official list of Catholic Church's saints but the church permits his depiction as a saint. His inclusion here might seem a surprising choice but the sculptural group was donated by the then Mayor of the town of Kutná Hora, who considered Charlemagne as his personal patron.
The sculptural groups in front the Jesuit College are often compared to the sculptures by Ferdinand Maximilian Brokoff on Charles Bridge in Prague, created at almost the same time. The Kutná Hora sculptures are mostly attributed to František Baugut, who prior to his arrival in town worked as a carver. He is considered to be the artist responsible for the arabesque ornamented altar with figurative decorations in the Church of the Virgin Mary Help of Christians in Chlumek at Luže. According to written sources František Baugut came to Kutná Hora in 1709. He stayed for ten years and then left for the town of Telč. He most likely worked on 11 of the sculptural groups in front of the College. He is definitely not the artist responsible for the sculpture of St John of Nepomuk, as this was not added until around 1740. His authorship of the sculpture of St Isidore is also debatable, as its chronogram gives the year 1707 and the sculptor did not arrive in town until two years later.
The figures of the saints are placed on a small pedestal and surrounded by sculptures depicting their attributes. The whole group rests on a large plinth with a bas-relief and is flanked on each side by a figure of an angel. Some groups have ornamental obelisks (the sculpture of St Louis and St Francis de Borgia), others have female (sculpture of St Ignatius) or male figures (sculpture of St Francis Xaverius). Next to the sculptural group of St Wenceslas are two more saints, St Ludmila and St Vitus.
The ten stone urns decorated with floral motifs are also the work of František Baugut.
The first restoration work was carried out on the sculptures in the 1940s and further minor repairs followed in the second half of the 20th century. Complete restoration of the monument did not take place until 2005 and 2006.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          

Restoration of thirteen sculptural groups of saints on the parapet wall:

The sculptural groups are mostly the work of the Jesuit artist František Baugut and depict 13 saints who were in some associated with the Jesuit Order, the Catholic Church, the Bohemian Lands or the actual Kutná Hora region: St John of Nepomuk, St Barbara, St Ludovic, St Isidore, St Ignatius of Loyola, St Wenceslas, St Francis Xaverius, St Joseph Calasanctius, St Florian, St Francis Borgia, St Anna and St Charles the Great (Charlemagne). The figures of the saints stand on small socles, which are surrounded by petite angels and putti, bearing attributes of each saint and in some cases heraldic shields of aristocratic families. Additional attributes of the saints had been carved into the stone at their feet. Each sculptural group rests on a substantial pedestal, flanked with sculptures of angels and obelisks. The centre of every pedestal has a carved bas-relief depicting coats of arms and an originally gilded inscription in Latin with a hidden date (chronogram). The process of restoration revealed that the extent of damage was greater than expected. It turned out to be impossible to entirely remove the copious surface gypsum crusts. The limestone underneath the crusts had turned to sand. Further problems arose after the removal of the contaminants and dirt. The dark crusts on the surface of the sculptures did not consist of dust deposits and sulphate salts as originally presumed but turned out to be a thin layer of cement coating. The corrosion underneath this layer was too advanced for the removal of the cement to be feasible. The most extensive layer of cement coating was found on the statue of St Isidore. All statues exhibited cracks. The statue of St Ludovic was the most damaged. The iron peg which held the head and the body of the saint together had swollen due to the effect of corrosion to such a degree that it was literally "tearing apart" the statue from the inside. There were frequent instances of mechanical damage, such as broken-off corners of the socles, pedestals and obelisks as well as parts of actual sculptures. The latter also showed a high degree of bio-corrosion caused by mosses, lichens, mildew and grass. Repair materials used during the previous restorations did not fulfil their function, had separated from the stone or had fallen out entirely.
Due to the advanced corrosion of the stone, pre-consolidation using organosilicate agents and a solution of acrylate co-polymer in a toluene-ethanol compound solvent was carried out on all sculptures. To follow, the restorers removed the moss and lichen growths with biocides. The gypsum crusts were removed mechanically using small chisels, micro abrasives or where required mild chemical agents. During all the processes the preservation of the stone was paramount. Crushed stone combined with white cement and lime hydrate was used as a sealant. Acrylate dispersion was added to the sealant to extend its lifespan. Grouting was carried out using two kinds of compounds – a mineral based one or a mixture with added acrylate co-polymer. Organosilicates were used as consolidants. Broken-off and damaged parts were remodelled. To conclude preventative hydrophobization was applied.
Restoration work included the reconstruction of the metal parts. The corroded pegs and cramps used to reinforce the sculptures were removed and replaced with non-corrosive ones, which were treated with anti-corrosive agents. The halo with five stars around the head of St John of Nepomuk was rid of corrosion, treated with preservatives and gilded with gold leaf. The partially missing metal-made attribute of the apple and cross on the statue of St Joseph Calasanctius was reconstructed.

Restoration of the ten decorative vases on the parapet wall:
Ten decorative vases and two sculptures of angels with shields are placed on the stone wall between the individual sculptural groups of saints. They were all also made from biodetric limestone, or "mussel shell stone", in the years between 1707 and 1716. The only exception is the vase between the sculptural groups of St Joseph and St Ignatius, which is a later copy made from Hořice sandstone.
A supplementary restoration survey was carried out on all these sculptural works as a follow-up to the research undertaken by the Litomyšl Institute of Restoration and Conservation Techniques in 2004. The supplementary survey centred on petrography and taking of reference samples in order to establish the levels of salinity in the stone. The vases stand on small square socles and are ornamented with ribbon scrolls, fruit motifs, festoons and heads of angels. The sculptures of angels are located on the sides of the statue of St Wenceslas. The angels, whose faces are turned towards the saint, hold a tall shield with the bas-relief of St Cosmas and St Damian. These two saints are portrayed here for a reason – St Wenceslas was murdered in front of the Church of St Cosmas and St Damian in the town of Stará Boleslav. The surfaces of the vases and the sculptures of angels were considerably degraded and overgrown with moss and lichens. The gypsum crusts were in places several millimetres thick. The sculptures were also damaged by a network of cracks and the use of unsuitable sealants during previous repairs. Some areas have lost their original contours and instances of mechanical damage were also found, such as missing parts of the rim on one of the vases and a broken-off wing on one of the angels. During the restoration process the same methods were used as in the case of the thirteen sculptural groups. Damaged areas were pre-consolidated using organosilicate consolidates and the surfaces were then cleaned by both mechanical and chemical means. Cracks and missing parts were repaired using suitable grouts with the addition of crushed mussel shell limestone. Appropriate sealants were used where required. To conclude the stone was consolidated and treated with a hydrophobic agent.

Restoration of the parapet wall:
The wall, which is about one metre high, was built from the mussel shell limestone around the same time as the majority of the sculptures (1707 – 1716). The wall was also subjected to an extensive examination by the Litomyšl Institute of Restoration and Conservation Techniques. The additional survey carried out in 2005 noted higher levels of salinity in the lower part of the wall. The pointing was in a very poor condition and in places missing altogether. The pointing added during previous repairs had very low levels of dilation and water permeability, which led to a considerable degradation of the stone in the vicinity of the pointing. In places frosts have caused cracks several centimetres deep. Methods used during the restoration of the wall were almost identical to those implemented in the case of the Baroque sculptures. The initial pre-consolidation was followed by cleaning, repair of defects and infilling of cracks. To prevent any further deterioration of the stone, the entire wall was reinforced and treated with hydrophobic agent. Localized areas of increased salinity levels were desalted.

 



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