Rafal Nestorow
"Francesco Fiorentino and the Introduce of
Renaissance in Poland"

Before the 1500 the late gothic style covered almost all Central Europe with the exeption of Hungary where before then in any other country, there was a constant flow of Italian artists, bringing with them new approaches, new realisation - new styles.
This migration of artists directly from Italy was, as we will see, a key factor for the introduction of Renaissance in this part of Europe.
In Poland the new style appears in the early years of the XVI century.
Francesco Fiorentino, an Italian artist is invited to the Royal Castle in Krakow. Besides some notes from the Krakow records, which point to his Florentine upbringing, very little is known about him. There are no informations about his personal and artistic life. Also unknown is from where he came to Krakow. Presumably he was immigrated from Hungary by Prince Zygmunt, or directly invited from Italy by the Royal Secretary Erazm Ciolek, who later became bishop.
Francesco's task was to build the sepulchral niches, located in the Krakow cathedral, for king Jan Olbracht (he died in 1502).
The tomb consists of architectural niches which hold the sarcophagus with the tombstone of the king's portrait on the slant (the tombstone is not Francesco's work).
This Krakow monument ties to the Florentine style of arcaded tomb built to the wall, among them Carlo Morsupini's (Desiderio da Settiniano 1455) and Leonardo Bruni's (Bernardo Rosellino 1494) both in Santa Croce, Florence, are the best examples.
Compared to the Florentine prototype Jan Olbracht's tomb has different proportions due to much deeper niche and the introduction of pillars in even number for support.
In the Krakow tomb, because of this approach, it has been used the system of two concentric arcades, formed by the even number of pillars and the double archivolt.
With wording on the sarcophagus the two arcades system was invented to enhance the glorification of the buried person.
According to the inscription the monarch became famous for two reasons: for his ruling during peace time and for the ruling in the war time. The two aspects of his remarkable life are tangible in the monument's ornaments, with "war" motifs in the inside arcade and "peace" motifs in the outside arcade.
The ruler's exaltation is furthermore emphasized by the ornamental parts connecting the two arcades: garlands, wreaths in plinth, cornucopias, ornate entablatures.
An other important Francesco's artistic impute is his contribution to the reconstruction of the Royal Castle in Krakow, not as an architect (he was not) but as stone-cutter, responsible for all the sculpturing at the Castle.
The new palace in Wawel, whose construction was started in 1504 by king Alexander Jagiellonczyk, was most likely intended to be as a building on its own, to stand a part in the gothic castle.
The genesis like for the Wawel complex goes back to the middle age pallatium, which ties to the older tradition of the Mediterranean Sea basin.
Also recently the "pallatium novom" built by Pope Nicholas V to the middle age buildings in the Vatican is considered as a model.
The Krakow's place is made after a Roman building's model with its interiors placed one after the other (in a straight line) with the piano nobile on the second floor.
Not much is left of Francesco's works in the new built place, besides the window frames and the oriel located in the piano nobile. Both mentioned Francesco's works have identical architectonic outline.
The bay window holds the support for a pair of Corinthian pillars, on the top of them, in the friez's part there are three coats of arms: the Polish coat of arm in the middle-eagle, the Lithuania one-Pogon, and on the left side the coat of arms of Habsburg.
When in 1508 the left wing was added to the palace, it was necessary to raise the galleries, because without them the proper use of the interior would be impossible.
The preliminary works for the construction of the galleries started in 1512, an they were installed from 1515 to 1516. This was Francesco's Florentino's last work.
The galleries used for the ground part of the place have characteristic sections: high arcades carry the shorter and more delicate arcades of the first floor and on top of these ones raises, with its slender architectural structure, the high architrave gallery of the second floor.
The east side loggia of the Vatican's "pallatium novum" could have been a model for the Wawel galleries. The strongest resemblance is visible in the two storeys arcaded galleries from which the high architrave galleries for the second floor are erected.
Wawel galleries started almost of the same time with the roman loggia and they can be compared to it, first of all by size.
The Wawel galleries differ from the roman loggia because of the Florentine form.
Several times during the construction of the galleries Francesco travelled to North Hungary (now the Slovak Republic) to hire more stone-cutters indispensable for the reconstruction. The imported stone-cutters made the late gothic portals of the ground floor, but the renaissance moulding added to them are Francesco's opera.
So many similarities can be found in Francesco's decorations in his Krakow works with other artistic circles that it can be assumed they had close ties.
First we can mention the Florentine circle, the strongest, from this Francesco absorbed a vast range of decoration forms for example: festoon and cornucopias.
Then the circle of decoration Montefeltro Palace in Urbino, where most likely he learned the motif of floral wreathe.
The third circle that had an impact on Francesco's work in Krakow is Hungary, particularly Giovanni Fiorentino's circle and the group of artists engaged for Jerzy Szatmary in Pecz and for the palace in Nyek.
On the works done by Italian artists in Hungary we can notice similar composition, identical floral wreathe, wall trophy and heraldic motifs.
The importance of Francesco Fiorentino works for the XVI century Polish art is undoubtedly.
He sawed, in Poland pure Italian renaissance forms, he brought the all repertoire of decoration motifs for example: floral wreathe, festoon, cornucopias etc.
He spread forms typical of the Florentine architecture like bay windows, decorated wall sepulchral and arcaded courtyards loggias.
At the same time the introduction of arcades in king Jan Olbracht's triumphal arch and sarcophagus solaced in strongly in the Polish art.
When building galleries, Francesco not only introduced a new, unknown in Poland architectonic form, but he left his own style to its followers.
An other artists from Italy hired at the Krakow Cathedral and the Royal Castle, Bartolomeo Berrecci will bring to its culmination point, the style initiated by Francesco Fiorentino in Poland.

 


THE WINDOW FRAMES AND THE ORIEL
ON THE SECOND FLOOR AT
THE WAWEL CASTLE

THE TOMB OF THE KING
JAN OLBRACHT

THE WAWEL GALLERIES
(VIEW FROM THE WEST WING)

THE LATE GOTHIC PORTAL AT THE
GROUND FLOOR AT THE WAWEL CASTLE