Topos dzikiego człowieka i jego recepcja w późnogotyckim malarstwie w Polsce

Monika Jankiewicz-Brzostowska


Motive of a Wild Man and its Reception in the Polish Late Mediaeval Painting


Wild man is a popular figure in mediaeval culture. This study presents his depictions in Polish gothic art against the backdrop of findings of Richard Bernheimer – author of the fundamental monography on the concept of a wild man in European culture, and Timothy Husband – the curator of the 1980 New York exhibition devoted to this subject. In Missale Cracoviense, ca. 1450, AKMW, nr 2 KP depictions of wild men complete main images in the initials: Adoration of the newborn Jesus and Resurrection. In these contexts – paired with images referring to crucial events in the history of salvation of mankind depictions of fighting wild men represent chaotic, uncontrollable, conflicted passions of a man not yet guided by the light of faith. In Antiphonarium de sanctis founded by Adam of Będków, 1451–1457 two fighting wild men who are present at the bottom of the page with an initial showing John the Baptist probably represent quite similar ideas with perhaps stronger emphasis on their link with nature and its unbridled power. In the fourth volume of Graduale de festis et de dominicis, a manuscript from 1467, destroyed by nazis during the WW II, the wild man was shown at the bottom of the page. Above him there was a heron and a peacock and at the top of the page – Christ ruling the world with a clergyman – probably the founder of the manuscript – kneeling before him. According to many mediaeval bestiaries a heron was a symbol of a Christian distancing himself from the secular world and its temporary charms in favour of eternal goods. A peacock was a reminder that a Christian should be always mindful of his own sins. The entire scene refers to the  attitude of the clergyman depicted who aspires to eternal bliss by shunning the world with its temptations and chaos symbolized by a wild man. In the first part of the Graduale founded by the king Jan Olbracht, 1499–1506, there is a marginal decoration including three wild men, which can be interpreted as a satirical allusion to Roman de la Rose, criticizing those following blind urges of carnal desires. The only secular manuscript with images of wild men is the book of borough rights of the town of Głubczyce drawn in 1421.

On its first page there is a wild man fighting a lion. Here the wild man is a symbol of humans fighting against primitive and aggressive tendencies of their own nature under the guidance provided by laws given by the king. The depiction was probably inspired by illustrations to Psychomachia showing personified virtues and vices in combat. The second depiction of wild men in the Głubczyce borough rights book shows two of them in a fierce fight next to the scene of murder. This suggests that they symbolize aggressive tendencies of human nature which can lead to violent crimes. The last depiction is to be found in a wall -painting  in the Franciscans’ church in Toruń. It represents a fight of water wild men. Although they were not quite so popular as wild men living on land many medieval authors mention wild men living in or near the water and taking refuge there in case of danger. In the wall  painting in question they are represented together with mermaids surrounding a ship, whose sailors call on Virgin Mary and St Nicholas for help. Therefore water wild men, as well as mermaids shown next to them, can be interpreted as symbols of danger, both  physical and spiritual, to the sailors.

Redakcja deklaruje, że wersja papierowa czasopisma naukowego "Studia
Historica Gedanensia" jest wersją pierwotną.