The Activities and Status of the Sculptors of Biała Podlaska in the 1730s and 1740s (Summary)

Aistė Paliušytė (PDF)

The article analyses unexplored activities of the sculptors of Biała Podlaska commissioned by the wife of the Chancellor of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania (GDL), Anna Katarzyna Sanguszko-Radziwiłłowa, in the 1730s and 1740s. The profession of the sculptor, the peculiarities of the work commissions and the social status were addressed. The article seeks to better comprehend the tradition of sculpture in the GDL in the eighteenth century and to explain the little-addressed problems linked to the creative conditions of artists in private towns. In analysing these questions, the author relies on previously unstudied financial documents of the ducal court, namely work contracts and treasury expenses. These historical sources are mainly from the 1730s and early 1740s. It was the most active period for Sanguszko-Radziwiłłowa commissions and the most intensive creative activity of the sculptors.
More than ten sculptors worked in Biała Podlaska, ruled by Sanguszko-Radziwiłłowa in the early eighteenth century. Moulders created compositions of different techniques and genres. Also, they were especially prominent as decorators. Therefore, their activities influenced the artistic development of the whole region. The masters instructed the learners drawn from among the subjects of their noble landlady. They worked in Biała Podlaska and other towns in the GDL ruled by the Chancellor’s wife.
We did not observe irregularities or exclusive treatment of sculptors regarding their social status compared to other groups of artists and craftsmen. Nevertheless, some representatives of this profession were well-paid and well-esteemed. In ducal court documents, sculptors and painters are sometimes rated as executors of commissions, which is different from other craftsmen.
Investigating the activities of sculptors in Biała Podlaska, we found no tension between the noble court and the city, which existed in other regions of modern Europe. The sculptors of Biała Podlaska, like other groups of artists, did not form a guild as an institutional alternative to the court. The groups of creative artists accumulated primarily at the owner’s court and with the direct participation of Sanguszko-Radziwiłłowa, the most important art commissioner of the town.
The activities of most sculptors in Biała Podlaska were directly dependent on the economy of the town’s owner. The working conditions of artists in the private town had peculiarities. The connection to the noble court made their working conditions similar to those of artists who worked in other properties not related to the urban space. On the other hand, existing urban conditions enabled more intensive, varied and influential artistic activities. It is evidenced by the history of Biała Podlaska sculptors in the 1730s and 1740s.
Keywords: Grand Duchy of Lithuania, Anna Katarzyna Sanguszko-Radziwiłłowa, ducal court, nobles, artists