Some new findings on the method of work in Theodoric's workshop emerged quite unexpectedly from the study of the preparatory drawing. The significance of this drawing, with which we are acquainted by means of infrared rays, can be considered from various points of view, from the purely technical to the more art-historical aspects. As we know, a centre has actually been established for the study of the preparatory drawing of Dutch panel painting which sets itself the target, inter alia, of differentiating the various authors in this way and thus distinguishing later replicas or copies. In its initial phase our study, too, was directed towards the possible differentiation of the hands of individual masters and their assistants. The partial results have already been published in Technologia Artis 2. With regard to the actual technique of the preparatory drawing it must be pointed out that the black brush drawing which can be seen so clearly on the infrared photos was not the initial drawing. According to reflectograms it was preceded by a drawing in strongly diluted water paint, the lines of which run almost parallel and probably followed the initial charcoal drawing. The individual artistic types of drawing are stated and illustrated in the previously mentioned article (Technologia Artis 2, p.75).

There exists a large group of pictures in which the dimensions of the head or the entire figure were enlarged at the stage of the preparatory drawing. Further corrections of dimensions were then carried out in the painting layer. An example we might mention is the painting of St Matthew, where an increase in the number of strokes, indicating shadows, can be clearly seen on the cheek or at the base of the nose. Differences were also observed in the manner of drawing of the face and draperies, indicating that these tasks may have been specialised. In the flesh parts of the Holy Prophet and St George there prevails in the faces delicate drawing with a double line indicating shadow at the base of the nose, whereas the folds of the drapery are drawn with strong, energetic strokes, similar to the drawing of the painting of St Anne.

The role of the workshop in the phase of the preparatory drawing is clear in a whole series of paintings where the drawing shows signs of seeking form and the lines are uncertain, with frequent corrections. The preparation of the painting was clearly entrusted to the workshop in the initial phase. How the workshop dealt with this task and what means it had available is the subject of the further part of the study.

The study of the drawing showed that it is possible to prove the existence of workshop patterns and tracings which served various purposes. First of all there are overall composition schemes, the nature of which was governed by the given theme, often binding for reasons outside art. These schemes are the same in a number of cases or are used in mirror reversion. Good examples are the paintings of the female saints, such as St Otylia, St Barbara, St Catherine, St Margaret, etc. Also connected with the theme are patterns of the character of the face which point to a certain more or less limited number of variants. Study of the typology of the heads showed that the shape of the head and the details of the face, i.e. eyes, nose, are completely identical in a number of cases, as though they originated through tracing. Variations concern only the shape of the beards or hair, or perhaps the absence of both. Also demonstrable are patterns of certain details of composition, for instance of the hands or folds of drapery. In the study of these details on infrared photos there stood out not only identical forms, but also identical proportions, so that one gains the impression that in the workshop there existed full-size patterns. Several types of hands were used for various functions, but it is possible to demonstrate that those employed in the workshop did not always select the right type for the given function. Thus, for instance, the motif of the holding of a cross between two fingers was quite often transferred quite illogically to the holding of a book or an orb. As an example of the stereotype of a gesture of the hand one might mention the paintings of St James the Less, St Bartholomew, St Matthew, a Holy Ruler and St Louis. The striking appearance of the identical gestures was suppressed in some cases in the paint layer by the covering of one or more fingers with paint. In all cases there exist mirror reversions.

A similar situation also exists in the motifs of drapery. The basic shape of the folds, for instance at the bend in the elbow, is in a number of cases completely identical at the stage of the preparatory drawing and was later possibly altered in the layer of painting. It is difficult to judge whether the change in the dimensions of the figures, which can be seen in a great number of the infrared photographs, especially in the faces, is connected with the work of the workshop. It is possible at least to conjecture that the drawing was prepared in advance in the workshop on a whole series of panels at once and only later amended in the painting when suitable proportions had been fixed. This is indicated, inter alia, by the series of pictures of the Holy Rulers and Bishops, where the infrared photography showed changes in the size of the faces. The final version also suppresses the crowns of the rulers as indicated in the drawings. It is possible to presume that these pictures with corrections of form and also the pictures where the figures do not exceed the inner area of the panel represent the initial stage of work. This is also suggested by the draft drawings of the saints found on the plaster of the Altar Wall, where the figures are sketched together with the frames in various scales, as though the author was searching for the right size for the paintings, as is reported by Tamara Beranová and Jiří Třeštík. No figure here, however, extends onto the frame. A similar example is the painting of St Bartholomew, the first compositional sketch for which did not count on extending to the frame and only in the course of the painting were the outlines of the figure extended onto the area of the frame. The painting altered the sketched scheme of the folds of the drapery, the shape of the head, the hair and the face.

Division of labour was, as we know, quite common in medieval workshops and it is not possible to preclude a certain amount of specialisation in the execution of the preparatory drawings. It would be quite natural that the author of the drawing would not always be the author of the painting, but it is difficult to imagine that an important master would limit his participation to the preparatory drawing. Nor can the cooperation of the workshop be considered a phenomenon which would reduce the artistic value of the work in the eyes of the person ordering it, taking into consideration the basically different concept of authorial merits in the Middle Ages. With regard to the complicated nature of such an immense task as was the decoration of the Chapel of the Holy Rood, the work done by specialist assistants played an important part. It is natural that such an assistant should make his work easier by using patterns (tracings or stencils?). The examples we have given indicate that Theodoricus' workshop used both complete compositional schemes and also patterns of certain details of the shape of hands and parts of drapery.



St Ann Metertia by Master Theodoric - infrared photo Sona Divišová. Detail.

Striking paint drawing with widening of stroke in middle and pointed completion. Marked alterations in composition indicate creative procedure of one of main Masters.






Infrared Photographs of Apostles by Master Theodoric
(S. Divišová):
St. Simon: the composition, type of head and position of left hand are the same as in the picture of St Bartholomew (head is mirror image). Identical drawing of hand - with variation of visible fifth finger - is to be found on a number of further paintings. Here the little finger is hidden by the painting of the book (clear traces of fixing of metal cross).



Infrared Photographs of Apostles by Master Theodoric
(S. Divišová):
St Bartholomew: A number of motifs in composition and form are identical to the picture of St Simon, the left hand, however, holds only a book, not a cross: shape is used illogically, regardless of function.

At the same time the positions of these details were shifted or reversed as in a mirror. The relatively large number of pentiments shows that the preparatory drawing was often corrected by the painting in order to achieve a greater variety of form. Only in the actual painting layer was the picture given its true artistic form.

Convincing proofs of the use of patterns in workshop practice in another field of art were given recently in a study by M. Schuster-Gawlowska which dealt with preparatory drawings of icons of Lesser Poland from the period 1450-1550 (Annales d'Histoire de I'Art et d'Archeologie XII -1990, pp.43- 53). This concerned mainly a popular type of Hodegetria which was copied, as proved by the author, in painters' studios for the relatively lengthy period of one hundred years. The infrared photographs showed that the heads of the Virgin Mary and the Infant Jesus and their hands are identical and variations concern only a shifting of the position of the Child closer to the Mother or a shift in the axis of the entire composition. More basic differentiation was then carried out on the one hand in the manner of gilding the background and on the other hand in the actual painting. A total of nine variations of the given type were studied, but the author claims that in reality there are a great many more in existence. Their widespreading may also have taken place thanks to the travels of journeymen whose duty was not only to gain experience in other workshops, but also to collect the patterns of popular compositions.

It seems that religiosity in Eastern areas was favourable to the repetition of this pattern, which was an important one for religious reasons. In our country no such widespreading of patterns seems to have occurred. The case of Karlštejn Castle is clearly an exception caused by the nature of the task in hand.

In conclusion it is possible to say that the study of the preparatory drawings of Theodoric's type confirmed its innovative standing in the development of Gothic painting in our country. The character of this drawing is, taken as a whole, far more fluent and free in comparison with the strictly linear concept of the drawing of other works of the same period, especially those which later culminated in the Beautiful Style. The frequent changes, concerning not only details, but the entire composition, are proof of a creative enthusiasm which is imposing in its extratemporal nature.


  
From composition analyses, published by M. Schuster-Gawlowska.

  author
Radana Hamsíková, AHVT B 047