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On 10 April 2019, the collection of the National Museum in Krakow gained Józef Mehoffer’s another design for the stained glass windows in the Fribourg Cathedral: The St. Sebastian and St. Maurice cartoon, which together with the St. Catherine and St. Barbara cartoon bought last year, form the design of the stained glass window The Martyrs — world-class masterpiece of monumental art, awarded the gold medal at the World’s Fair in Paris in 1900.
The Martyrs is Mehoffer’s first work with such strong Art Nouveau features. One of the most important means of expression is the suggestive, smoothly weaving line, giving shape to colorful decorative motifs, tightly filling the composition. The central scenes in the middle of the stained glass window are filled with the depictions of Christian martyrs from the turn of the third and fourth century, making the heroic decision to refuse to renounce their faith, which equaled to choosing death.
On the left side of the St. Sebastian and St. Maurice composition, Mehoffer depicted St. Sebastian – centurion, who he was turned into a living target in a military exercise field. St. Maurice, depicted on the right, was the leader of the Theban Legion, forming part of Emperor Maximilian’s army, heading north through the Alps to fight with the Gauls. The Legion of six thousand men was massacred for refusing to worship pagan deities.
The bottom part of the stained glass window, showing the saints at the moment of death among exaggerated branchy orchids, forms a whole with the images in the central part. Figures of women, emerging from a thicket of flowers lean over the martyrs’ naked bodies. Perhaps they are personifications of the idea of Thanatos, which was very important in the art of symbolism.
The purchase will be available to see as of 20 July 2019, at a special exhibition at the Józef Mehoffer House. This will be the first presentation of the monumental Fribourg cartoon at the artist’s biographical museum. St. Sebastian and St. Maurice cartoon will be accompanied by selected Fribourg drawing sketches from the collection of the National Museum in Krakow. The exhibition is part of the celebrations of Józef Mehoffer’s 150th birth anniversary.
Purchase co-financed by the Minister of Culture and National Heritage from the resources of the Cultural Promotion Fund as part of the “Museum Collections” program.
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