© 2023. Pinsel.AR

Bozzetti by Johann Georg Pinsel:
circumstances and settings of creation.

In honour of Close Friend Yevhen Hulevych.
Боцетто Йогана Георгія Пінзеля

In order to carve large-scale sculptures, Johann Georg Pinsel made miniature and graceful wooden bozzetti, which are exemplary of his way of thinking.

The sculptural etudes have had a complex life path. They show sticking, scraping, loss of some elements and repainting. It is unknown how and where they survived the rough times of the 20th century. The bozzetti have probably been under unprofessional care for some time. They have been carelessly painted with water-based emulsion paint. In the late 1980s, the right leg and coniferous wood base which is unusual for Rococo style were added to the Saint Joseph figurine. King David’s hand is missing the sceptre, a sign of authority; it was probably made out of lead wire. Anne has her hands re-glued, which have broken off due to a fall. Comparative analysis showed that the models were made for the designs of church altars in Horodenka, Monastyryska and Budaniv. So, the time of their creation is approximately 1752–1761 years. Thanks to the critical understanding of Johan Pinsel’s bozzetti we can understand the principles of his creative credo.

Our knowledge of Johann Georg Pinsel’s work is based on the findings and interpretations of various art historians. In their works, we can read out reasoned statements about the uniqueness of the individual sculptor and the belonging of the works to the Pinsel studio. The studies of the heritage of the sculptor’s extraordinary eight bozzetti from the collection of the Bavarian National Museum in Munich are considerably enriching. They represent the author’s style, way of thinking and artistic vision of Johann Pinsel.

The miniature sculptural studies demonstrate several aspects of Pinsel’s signature style: the filigree execution of the carving, the use of specially produced chisels, the execution of the work on a preconceived scale and the creation of first drafts and sketches. The expressiveness of the images, the balanced dynamics, the sharpened folds of clothing, the elasticity of body anatomy and the careful modelling of facial features reveal more clearly the sculptor’s artistic vision. The tiny sculptures also represent the master’s way of thinking, as they were part of the architectural composition of the wooden models of the altars. This confirms the assumption that Johannes Pinsel did not think in isolated forms but in spatial categories.

Research into the bozzetti allows us to reconstruct, at least in part, the stages and the way the master worked on the commissions. In theory, Pinsel created wooden models for each object, thinking out a coherent composition and the arrangement of the entire space. Based on selected evidence from various sources, it can be assumed that the craftsman paid particular attention to the construction of the Buchach Town Hall, which was financed by Mikołaj Bazyli Potocki with great concern. For instance, Sadok Barącz in his book “Buchach monuments” mentions that the benefactor permitted the construction of an underpass from his palace for transporting figures and sculptures to the top of the building so that they could be delivered to their final destination without damage. This short reference suggests that Pinsel’s workshop was located at the palace of the Kaniv elder Mikołaj Bazyli Potocki.

Of the eight surviving bozzetti, one was carved not by the master but by his apprentice, presumably Antoni Sztyl. We don’t know whether Pinsel’s apprentices adopted the technique of making wooden models with miniature sculptures. There are no examples of their bozzetti available today. What is known is that after Johann Pinzel’s death, his pupils used sculptural sketches in private practice. For example, we see it in the work of Mychajlo Filewycz “Saint Anne who reads the Holy Scriptures” from the main altar of the Church of the Intercession in Buchach.

It should be noted that six of the bozzetti have holes in the base of the plinth from the mounting of the figures in the overall architectural composition of the altarpieces. The bozzetto of King David is leaning back against the rounded column. Unfortunately, the whereabouts of the models are unknown. Despite this state of preservation, we can see that Johann Georg Pinsel depended on the representation of the integrity of the work and its artistic qualities. It was these criteria that convinced potential investors of the success of the financing. The preserved bozzetti once again prove that the sculptor studied in Italy and was familiar with German carvers. In museums in Italy and Germany today there are many examples of wooden models of temples and altars from the 16th and 18th centuries, the creation of which was at one time an important step in the process of fulfilling orders.

Among the eight miniatures are sculptural studies of St Joseph, St Joachim, King David, the Prophet Abraham, St Anne, St Jerome and two angels with wings. They testify to the meticulousness and consistency of Pinsel, who at the design stage assumed precise proportions and the integrity of the figurative composition. He carved small figures and large sculptures equally diligently. Consequently, he had no problem with multi-dimensional images but focused on the full expression of the character. Comparing the sizes of the figures and large sculptures, we note that the bozzetti are made on a scale of 1:12. In the 18th century, on the territory of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth the metric system was not used, but the Polish elbow (approximately 59 cm), which is why they were made in 1:20 scale according to the time. Like the larger sculptures, the bozzetti are made of lime parts glued together with glutinous glue. Such a way of making miniatures required specially made stiffeners to glue the small wooden elements of the bozzetti and the ornamental composition of the altar models. The Pinsel algorithms, technology and devices for converting maquettes and bozzetti into real-size compositions remain a mystery to this day.

The large plastics of bozzetti from the collection of the Bavarian National Museum in Munich bear witness to Johann Pinsel’s passion for dynamic forms and emotional expressionism. It is a sign of continuity and cultural tradition that Johann Pinsel’s works are displayed together with the bozzetti of his teacher Matthias Braun. In the adjoining hall is a wooden model of the large altar for the Church of Mariahilfer in Vienna by architect Sebastian Haupt. Haupt’s model, created between 1757 and 1758, is an imaginary reproduction of Johannes Pinsel’s smaller works. The manner of carving, the fascination for detail and the ability to synthesise types of art were embodied in the models filling the church. Consequently, the bozzetti exhibited in the elegant and illuminated early twenty-first-century museum furniture indicate that Johann Georg Pinsel thought spatially as an architect and analysed deeply as a sculptor.

Oleh Rybchynskyy

* The research was implemented by the public initiative My Future Heritage in partnership with the Borys Voznytsky Lviv National Art Gallery and the Bavarian National Museum, with the support of the House of Europe.

* For more information about the bozzetti, please visit the gallery section