Silesian Ars Moriendi.
Medieval Monumental Brasses [8]

Silesian Ars Moriendi

The monumental brass of Duke Wenceslaus of Żagań

The history of the monumental brass of Duke Wenceslaus of Żagań was tumultuous resulting in its poor state and only partial preservation: in addition to wear, tear, and corrosion, some elements are missing which makes it difficult to reconstruct and interpret the original image.

Its conservation – whose results are presented at the exhibition – involved procedures embracing both technical and aesthetic aspects. Work started with cleaning to remove the harmful products of corrosion and dirt threatening. Then, the missing parts were reconstructed with appliques cast of brass alloy of composition matching the original material. The reconstruction of the missing central section was done using medieval techniques and tools, and the engraved decoration was recreated based on a nineteenth-century print documenting the entire composition.

The reconstructed fragments were soft-soldered to the preserved original parts using an alloy of pewter and lead and the joints reinforced with thin brass plates. Filling-in the missing fragments and reconstructing the monument’s middle section has made the composition much more legible. The lower section has not been reconstructed because there are no sources documenting its original appearance. The final stage of the restoration project involved applying a protective layer against the elements and the metal elements have been mounted on a purpose-designed “scaffolding” enabling the monument’s secure display.

The conservation of the funerary monument was the MFA diploma project “Problems of the technology and conservation of the fifteenth-century monumental brasses by a Wrocław workshop. The conservation of the monumental brass of Duke Wenceslaus of Żagań (d. 1488)”, realized by Mateusz Tomyślak at the Faculty of Conservation and Restoration of Artworks at the Academy of Fine Arts in Kraków, with Dr. Roman Jacek Kieferling as the advisor.

Fot. 1: The monumental brass of Duke Wenceslaus of Żagań, A. Pettinger’s litograph after a drawing by B. Mannfeld, reproduced after: H. Luchs, Schlesische Fűrstenbilder des Mittelalters, Breslau 1872, Taf. 27.

Fot. 2: Mateusz Tomyślak at work on recreating the medieval method of engraving for the reconstruction of the missing middle section of the monumental brass of Duke Wenceslaus of Żagań, fot. Uta Hanusek.

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