The Veit Stoss Altarpiece, known as Wit Stwosz in Polish, is located in the Basilica of Saint Mary in Kraków and is one of the most important relics in Poland. Its construction elements, sculptures and wood carvings all underwent renovation. The altarpiece’s original color-scheme was uncovered by cleaning all the layers of dirt, repaints, retouches, and supplements which had gathered over the last 500 years.
The following elements also changed: the light blue hue of the background of the retable and panels, the set-up of the secondary characters in the main scene, and the color of the frames of particular side panels.
The entire color-scheme is now similar to the one the altarpiece originally had at the end of the 15th century.
“We are proud and happy to have returned to the old décor of the Basilica of Saint Mary,” said pastor Dariusz Raś.
He added that he is highly grateful to the entire team which conducted research and work that required incredible patience and precision while uncovering the secrets of Veit Stoss’s workshop.
During renovation, the specialists cared most about bringing the altarpiece as close as possible to its original form in order to reveal the original Gothic color-scheme and complexion of characters.
“Everything that we can convey from the phenomenon of medieval art, we have delivered today,” said Jarosław Adamowicz, professor of the Jan Matejko Academy of Fine Arts and director of the renovation work. He emphasized that what overwhelmed him the most during the work was the skill Stoss had with the chisel — a phenomenon of absolutely limitless imagination which the creators of the reredos possessed.
During the conservation work, the date 1486 was found on one of the sculptures. This date precedes the currently accepted date of the altar’s sanctification by three years.
The altarpiece is currently once again on display for faithful and tourists. The renovation work was conducted by a competition-winning team from the Inter-Academy Institute of Conservation and Restoration of Works of Art of both the Warsaw and Kraków Schools of Fine Arts.
The research and renovation of the altarpiece amounted to over EUR 3.13 million.