From medieval cuisine to the more recent “World cultures”, which attracted over 50 000 visitors, the Ensemble Conventuel des Jacobins aims through quality works at making known the heritage of Western culture as well as that of distant civilizations. The exhibition “Treasures of Eastern Slovakia” takes us back to the Middle Ages, a period during which a powerful artistic production was expressed through the embellishment of places of worship. The brilliant lighting enhances the value of each of these pieces and brings out all their meaning under the vaults of the Jacobins' refectory.
A deeply original art
The exhibition is born from the collaboration between the Musée de Caen - where it was presented this Summer - the Ensemble Conventuel des Jacobins, and the Museum of Kosice where one of the most important collections of Eastern European sacred art is kept. Eastern Slovakia was the most far-reaching point of Catholicism in an orthodox country and as such experienced an unprecedented development of its artistic creation in the XIVth century. At the time it was in permanent contact with the artistic currents that went through Europe, thus arousing throughout the territory the emergence of an original form of art. While the Renaissance left very few traces in a country that local wars isolated from the other European artistic centres, a new style only started to appear around 1650. It was Baroque art. Practically without any transition, artists from Italy and Austria imposed this exuberant art full of movement that momentarily eclipsed the local productions, still medieval in spirit.
Gilt and polychrome
Right at the entrance of the exhibition, a magnificent untouched altarpiece has been put facing an ensemble of sculptures from the XIV and XV centuries, generally made in linden wood. Virgins with Child shown here with their eyes filled with tenderness are among the most remarkable works of Slovak Gothic art. While statues and paintings such as The Adoration of the Magi the Annunciation or even Resurrection of Lazarus demonstrate a high control of gilt and polychrome on wood, the presence of a coffer made in one single yew trunk and of a gate in wrought iron convey to us a true know-how in carpentry, cabinet making and iron craftsmanship.
From 1676 to…2013
Apostles and saints and other legendary characters rhythm the itinerary next to monumental works such as Christ on the cross, the representation of Saint Martin on horseback or a superb altar nearly 4 meters tall, whose harmony, gilt work and colors resume the will to embellish places of worship. This major piece has been dated through its restoration to 1676 and identified through WZ monogram. The main scene refers to the famous episode of Daniel in the lions' den: the prophet is sitting in the middle of the big cats, tamed by divine intervention. This exceptional heritage had never left the country before. By pure luck, both France and Slovakia will choose a European cultural capital at the same time, in 2013. The city of Toulouse is a candidate with the theme of the “roads of Europe”. With this exhibition, the Ensemble Conventuel des Jacobins fits in perfectly with this theme.
Illustration: Saint Barbe Spis workshop circa 1500. The Saint is represented with a tower which refers to the one in which her father locked her up in order to protect her from the Christian proselytism. Photo : Patrick David (Caen)
To see more illustrations, click on VERSION FRANCAISE at the top of this page