Artistic Commissions for Fraternities in Vilnius in the Eighteenth Century (Summary)

Auksė Ka1adžinskaitė (PDF)

The paper discusses the role of religious fraternities active in art patronage in Vilnius in the eighteenth century and the extent to which they influenced what today would be termed ‘the art market’ of Vilnius. Since the history and activities of fraternities constitute a seriously under-researched area, the author first attempts to determine the number of religious fraternities in Vilnius and establish their names and the churches and chapels in which they functioned. During the study, a list of the fraternities in Vilnius was compiled. The list provides information concerning their names and places of activity. Most of the earliest fraternities established from the fifteenth to seventeenth centuries continued their activity into the eighteenth century, which is the main focus of the present paper. The types and functions of the fraternities in Vilnius were the same as those in Western Europe. To function properly, a religious community had to have a place of worship. All members of a fraternity had to make donations for the provision of images and decoration of the jointly maintained place of worship, i.e., for the construction of an altar or a chapel, for its embellishment and liturgical articles. The appearance of the place of worship was very important in terms of form and content. The senior members of a fraternity elected for a certain term of office were responsible for hiring artists and supervising their work. The works were financed from fraternity funds, and members were required to donate a fixed amount. In the face of the scarcity of surviving historical sources, the paper relies on analysing the artistic commissions from the fraternities. The author seeks to establish which fraternities in Vilnius hired local artists to decorate altars and chapels in the eighteenth century. The paper also discusses the artists and architects granted commissions, their works and remuneration received. Fraternities in Vilnius hired famous local masters, such as architects Johann Christoph Glaubitz, Abraham Würtzner and Franciscus Hofer, sculptor Hedels, painter Józef Jermaszewski, etc. In the study, the author identified 56 fraternities that functioned in Vilnius in the eighteenth century. Based on the facts provided by the numerous fraternities in Vilnius and drawing on the surviving records of the hiring of artists, we conclude that such religious associations of the city inhabitants made a significant contribution to the formation of the architectural and artistic landscape of the city of Vilnius. The surviving examples of the hiring of artists illustrate the scope of artistic commissions and highlight the remarkable role that religious fraternities played in the art market in Vilnius in the eighteenth century.

Keywords: art patronage, churches, altars, artists, commissions