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The Italian region of Tuscany is home to two famous sculptors: Michelangelo Buonarroti and Lorenzo Bernini. Both masters had support and the opportunity to express themselves creatively. They traveled a lot around the country searching for helpers, students, materials, tools and to fulfill orders. Their works became an organic part of the Italian cultural landscape. They are sculptures that convey sensuality, tension and religious exaltation.
In the early 18th century, a young sculptor Matthias Bernard Braun came from Innsbruck to Italy to study the discerning art of Michelangelo and Bernini. Subsequently, he was commissioned to create a sculpture of the Annunciation for the Church of the Holy Trinity at Kuks Castle hospital in Bohemia. And then, during 28 years of work in Prague, Matthias Braun created an incredibly large number of stone sculptures. He died because of Tuberculosis at the age of 54.
A heredity of creative thought exists between the three sculptors – Michelangelo (1475-1564), Bernini (1598-1680) and Brown (1684-1738). Their successor is Johann Georg Pinsel (born between 1707-1720, died 1761-1762). Mikołaj Bazyli Potocki became an influential patron of the master. In the middle of the XVIII century, this purposeful patron of arts plans to restore two cities located on important trade routes – Horodenka and Buchach, which were destroyed by the Moscow troops in 1738-1739.
At the end of 1745 Potocki invited Bernard Meretina, an architect who had already worked on the development of the St. George Cathedral in Lviv, to design the Missionary Fathers’ Church of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary with the theatine monastery in Horodenka. Construction of the temple in Horodenka was completed in 1754. It was built in the south-eastern part of the city center. On the north side of the monastery, territory bordered with the old castle of the XVII century. The Two-towered baroque Church became a spatial dominating feature of the city. Architectural design of the main facade has common features with the Cathedral of St. George in Lviv.
In order to realize his design ideas and sculptural compositions, Meretyn involves Pinsel, thus guaranteeing him long-term orders and good fees. In the following years the master will create a monumental sculptural composition of St. George and probably Saints Leon and Athanasius for the Greek-Catholic cathedral in Lviv, 18 sculptures for the altar and a stone column with the figure of the Virgin Mary for the Church of the Missionary Fathers in Horodenka; two stone figures of St. John Nepomucene and the Virgin Mary, 14 sculptural compositions that will decorate the attic, stone brackets and a majestic cartouche of the City Hall, for the city of Buchach. Thus, investigating the creative heritage of Meretin and Pinsel, Volodymyr Vujcyk draws attention to the fact that an unusual element in the baroque architectonics of the altar in Horodenka is almost an irreal phenomenon – suspended in the air capitals without columns, supported only by hands of puttos.
Travelling from Buchach to Horodenka, master Pinsel repeatedly passed by the town of Zoloty Potik, where he saw the ancient castle, brick and wooden churches; later, the entrance gate of Chernelytsia Castle, decorated with stone carvings. Pinsel have created two side altars for the church of the Dominicans’ Fathers in the Zoloty Potik. He also studied the experience of stone carvers in Yazlovets, who created one of the most beautiful cities in Eastern Europe. On the way along the winding coast of the Strip, Pinsel was bringing the stone statue of Onuphrius the Great to the monastery in Rukomysh. During the hours of travel, he probably was thinking about the eponymous work by his teacher Matthias Braun, installed in the forest of Bethlehem near the Kuks castle./p>
In Buchach, Pinsel actively supervises the construction of the town hall, and at the same time he carves stone sculptures and gives advice to apprentices on the plastic solution of architectural details. He bases the sculptural scenes not only on the heroics of ancient mythology, but also on the eloquent figures for that time Ukraine, such as captive and Cossack, that he places on volutes along the emblem cartouche. Perhaps, these images were created under the influence of Michelangelo’s series of stone slaves. During these years, he creates antependiums, Royal Gates and Deacon’s Doors, allegories of Courage, Wisdom, Faith and Saint Tobit for the altars of the Church of the Protection of the Holy Virgin. On the antependiums, he depicts the panoramas of Buchach, churches and gates, which shows his respect for his city. In 1745-1760s, Buchach turned into the residence of Mikolaj Potocki – the palace complex, the ensemble of the new Market Square, the Monastery of the Order of Saint Basil the Great, the Church of the Intercession, Church of Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary are being developed. For the latter, Pinsel creates sculptures of St. Francis Borgia and St. Vincent de Paul.
Construction of the St. George Cathedral in Lviv has been stretched over time. After the death of Bernard Meretyn in 1759, the construction of the church was led by Marcin Urbanik and he completed it in 1761. Therefore, Johann Pinsel, at the end of his life, completed the sculptural composition of St. George, which was installed in the attic of the cathedral.
In the early 1750s, the master received an order from Jan Kajetan Jabłonowski to make a series of wooden sculptures for the Ьonastery church in Mariampil. At that time, the city was actively developing: new bastions fortification of the city center, castle, church and monastery complex of the Capuchin Fathers were being built. On his way to Mariyampil Pinsel passed through the Monastyryska and visited the Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (for which he would make six sculptures in collaboration with Anton Stil in 1761), two wooden churches and a large market square. After this he travelled to Ustya-Zelene at the time when the construction of the stone church of the Holy Trinity was being finished. Jan Juliusz Ostrowski believes that during 1754-1755 years Pinsel could have been the author of the decorations in the church.
In the second half of the XVIII century Pinsel, with the help of Meretyn, received an order for the main altar of the Church of All Saints in Hodovytsya. He involved his apprentices Matvii and Petro Polejowski in individual works. During the creation of the altar figure of the Virgin Mary, Pinsel remembers the works of the Italian master Bernini, namely The Ecstasy Of Blessed Louis Albertoni and the Ecstasy of Saint Teresa. While creating the image of Samson, he rethought the sculptural composition of Stefano Maderno of the same name, which he might have seen during his youth study trip to Rome. Being particularly focused on the human body, Pinsel depiction of it is dramatically opened, which is causing criticism from the clergy. Therefore, he imitates draperies on the naked body parts of the figures of Isaac and Samson. When Pinsel leaves Buchach once again, he passes through Pidhaitsi, where he sees the Renaissance castle, city gates and defensive fortifications, churches, synagogue, beautiful Market Square and the Town Hall. While travelling a few kilometers from Pidhaitsi, Pinsel finds himself in the family nest of the Sieniawski family – town of Berezhany. In it, he is impressed not only by the architecture, but also by sculptural works by Henrikh Horst and Johann Pfister. Later he travels through Narayiv and Svirzh.
In Lviv, Pinsel was probably staying with Meretyn in a house on Shpytalna (currently Teatralna) Street. He demandingly beholden the works of Sebastian Fesinger in the Church of the Most Holy Apostles Peter and Paul at the Jesuit Monastery, Church of St. Nicholas at Trinitarian Monastery located in the suburbs of Galicia and the Church of the Holy Trinity at the Collegium of Trinitarians in the centre of the city. In 1757, together with Johann Gertner, Pinsel created the architectural form of the altars of St. Felix of Valois and St. John of Matha for the Trinitarian Church. Art historian Tadeusz Mankowski suggested that master Pinsel also created figures for the main altar of the Church of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary in Navaria. This church was designed by Meretyn, and Pinsel could have been taking part in creating the main altar in 1755. In 1760, Marcin Urbanik involved Pinsel in carving four wooden sculptures for the main altar of the Church of the Body of God of the Dominican Monastery in Lviv. These are the figures of John the Baptist, St. Dominic, St. Augustine, and St. Nicholas.
Pinsel was an active and educated man. He traveled a lot. The everyday culture of that time suggests that he should have spoken not only German, but also Polish and Ukrainian, perhaps Czech and Yiddish. Moreover, in the middle of the XVIII century, the environment in which he lived and created was not marked by political calmness and constancy. Perhaps sometimes he thought of leaving Buchach and moving far to the west. This did not happen. He and his works were in demand. His needs were met by space, opportunities and culture. He was not a temporary guest here. The master continued to work, to implement innovative ideas, to create the history of the second half of the XVIII century in sculptural compositions that turn the physical body within the boundaries of the Divine, combining the efforts of the spirit and the meaning of faith. He communicated with clergy and gentry, burghers and peasants. He was also well familiar with local national traditions and festive rituals.
At the end of 1760 Pinsel leaves Buchach for the last time. This time he started to make wooden sculptures for the parish church in Budaniv. With the help of his disciples he created saints Hieronymus, Augustine, Gregory, Ambrose and others.
After centuries, Pinsel works have also begun wandering. They were moved from places of origin to exhibition halls and museum funds. However, from the perspective of time they managed to become “spiritual” and strongly connected with their provenances. They are the carriers of the memory of churches, of people who cared for them and appealed to them. Therefore, Pinsel and his sculptures became an organic, eloquent part in the complex cultural mosaic of the then Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and modern Ukraine.

Oleh Rybchynskyy

* Illustrations for the article are taken from open sources.