The Nativity Shrine - a Polish work of art purchased by the French government
The wooden altar by Jan Szczepkowski is a great achievement of Polish art of the interwar period. The work was presented at the International Exhibition of Modern Decorative and Industrial Arts in Paris in 1925 and did not return to Warsaw, having been purchased by the French government.
Altar by Jan Szczepkowski
The Nativity Shrine, a wooden altar made by Jan Szczepkowski (1878-1964), is a unique example of Polish art of the interwar period. The work featured the geometric forms of art déco and was an innovative reference to vernacular art of the Polish highlanders, the Gorals. In 1925 the altar was presented in the Polish pavilion during the International Exhibition of Modern Decorative and Industrial Arts in Paris and won the Grand Prix. The work was purchased by the French government and the artist was awarded the Legion of Honour.
In 1927 the altar was granted, with the aid of the Mining Company, to St. Stanislaus’ Church in Dourges, a parish church built specially for the Polish colony. The town is located in the mining region of Nord-Pas-de-Calais in northern France.
As the years passed this beautiful carved altar was subject to gradual degradation due to inappropriate conditions, woodworms and several improper restoration attempts. Successful restoration was conducted by a team of Polish restorers led by Andrzej Kazberuk from the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw. The conservation project, completed in 2009, was financed by the Polish Ministry of Culture and National Heritage. (DJ)