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Exhibition: “The Fashion for Cranach”

The exhibition celebrates the paintings of the Reformation period from Wroclaw and Silesia to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the publishing of the Ninety-five Theses by Martin Luther in Wittenberg. 

Exhibition: “The Fashion for Cranach”

The exhibition celebrates the paintings of the Reformation period from Wroclaw and Silesia to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the publishing of the Ninety-five Theses by Martin Luther in Wittenberg.  The art of Lucas Cranach the Elder, his circle and their influence in Silesia, is the key to the presentation. The exhibition will feature old prints from the collection of the National Museum in Wrocław (Martin Luther’s translations of the Bible richly illustrated with Cranach’s woodcuts, draughts of the epitaph compositions and prints from Cranach’s circle), from the University of Wrocław Library (old prints and manuscripts, including the first edition of Luther’s Bible, postils, works by Silesian reverends and a collection drawings portraying the residents of Wrocław) and the Archdiocese Museum (e.g. the Breslauer Madonna by Lucas Cranach the Elder, the Reformated Church Allegory from Nowy Kościół near Świerzawa). One more important part of the exhibition is the archive documentation of the works that have not been able to survive and used to feature in Wrocław museum collections.

The National Museum in Wrocław occupies the building designed by an architect Karl Friedrich Endell and erected in 1883 – 1886.

Museum was established on 28 March 1947 as the State Museum in process of organization, on 11 July 1948 it was officially inaugurated to the public. From the 1 January 1950 Museum became a central museum of the Silesia region, as the Silesian Museum, to which museums of Wrocław and Opole voivodeships were subordinated. It was appointed to the rank of the National Museum on 21 November 1970.


The oldest collections stem from previous German museums and certain sacral objects of Wrocław and the Lower Silesia, as well as from Lvov collections conveyed to Poland in 1946 by the then Ukrainian authorities. Subsequently new collections were created, of the Polish contemporary art for instance; those already existing were completed too. The Museum holding encompasses over 120 thousand units of virtually all domains of art, ranging over mediaeval stone and wood sculpture, painting, drawing, prints and crafts, Silesian, Polish and foreign works of art. It houses also documents of Polish culture in Silesia from 19th and 20th century, an accumulation of books art interest and of photography as well as the collection of 20th century art.

The Museum collections are displayed on permanent exhibitions.

Permanent exhibitions





  The sarcophagus of

Duke Henry IV Probus, the lid, Wrocław,

the Holy Cross Church,

around 1300-1320

The exhibition consists of two parts – Silesian Stone Sculpture of 12th-16th century and Silesian Art of 14th-16th century, both presented on the first floor of the Museum.

The display of medieval stone sculpture  accumulates mainly sculptures originated as architectural decoration and funerary monuments. Particularly noteworthy are: dated to the 12th century Romanesque tympanum (probably from the portal of the Benedictine Ołbin Abbey) and tombs of Silesian princes from the Piast dynasty, among others one of the most precious works of Gothic art in Poland, the sarcophagus of Duke Henry IV Probus of Wrocław (d. 1290), with preserved rich polychromy. Originally located in the collegiate Holy Cross Church in Wrocław, during the Second World War it was removed from the city. Found in Wierzbna near Świdnica in 1946, the tomb monument was subsequently placed in the Museum.

A tombstone with the portrait of Duke Henry II Pious is dedicated to the memory of the ruler, the son of St. Hedwig. It stems from his tomb in St Vincent’s Church in Wrocław, which was erected over hundred years after the death of the sovereign that was killed near Legnica during the battle with Tartars (battle of Legnica, 1241).


The Silesian Art exhibition ranks with the most numerous and best collections of medieval art in Poland, encompassing sculptures in wood and paintings on wood panels, in addition to examples of decorative arts and crafts. Their subjects were mostly intended to convey a religious narrative. Chronologically arranged display reflects ideological and stylistic changes, to which Gothic art was submitted.



It includes selected sculptures connected with the circle of so-called Virgins on lions, among them the sculptureThe Virgin Mary and a Child Enthroned on Lionsfrom Skarbimierz (ca 1360), as well as a group of St Mary Magdalen and Apostles (1360 – 1370) from St Mary Magdalen’s Church in Wrocław.

Mystical approach is represented, among others, by Pietá from St Dorothea’s Church in Wrocław (ca 1380) and a painting St Anne with the Virgin and the Christ Childfrom Strzegom (the late 14thc.), whereas a paintingMadonna with Child, originally housed in St John the Baptist’s Cathedral in Wrocław, is an example of the International Gothic style.

From among Late Gothic’s works worthy of special mention are monumental retables from Wrocław churches, as for instance: fragments of Wrocław Goldsmiths Polyptych from St Mary Magdalen’s Church, St Hedwig’s Triptych (ca 1470 – 1480) from St Elisabeth’s Church and Dormition Polyptych (1492) from the Corpus Christi Church.


The Virgin Mary and a Child

Enthroned on Lions, Skarbimierz,

ca 1360

Mention should be made of exhibited objects of decorative arts, namely goldsmiths’ works, like herma – reliquary of St Dorothea (the early 15thc.), chalices and patens (the 15thc.) and well as Silesian guild utensils, predominantly pewter ware (the turn of the 15thc.).

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