Professor Hermann Schaper was one of the most important historical painters and a designer of mosaics of the Wilhelminian era in Germany. In his hometown of Hanover, he graduated in architecture and then painting at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich. His professional activity included, above all, designing and making painting and mosaic decorations in sacred and secular interiors, especially in historic buildings. The most famous projects were the decoration of the cathedral in Aachen, wall paintings in the town halls of Göttingen and Erfurt, city churches of Hanover, the cathedral in Bremen or the monastery church in Lehnin.
One of the most interesting episodes in the life of Hermann Schaper was almost twenty years of activity at the Malbork Castle, which began in 1892 and lasted until 1911. Cooperation with Conrad Steinbrecht – the spiritus movens of the great restoration project – resulted in realizations in the largest and most important interiors of the castle which were enriched thanks to his extraordinary talent. It was a testimony not only to excellent artistic creation, but also to knowledge of medieval art, which in his historical painting was combined with modern trends at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, especially Jugendstil.
Schaper’s first work at the castle was the interior painting of the Chapter House (1892-1898). In 1896, Schaper made a polychrome with the scene of the Last Supper in the convent’s refectory at the High Castle. At the same time, he also designed stained glass for the chapel of St. Anna (1896-1898). After a few years of break, Schaper was commissioned to design and implement large polychromes with scenes from the early history of the Teutonic Order in Prussia in the restored interior of the Great Refectory (1910, completed by August Oetken in 1915). The last project was a painting on the west wall of the chapel of St. Anne, in which the knights died in the Battle of Grunwald are directed by Saint George to the Mother of God. The cardboard for the painting was created in 1911 and the wall paintings were made a year later by Friedrich Schwarting.
Schaper was associated with Malbork both due to the orders he received from the Castle Reconstruction Board, as well as through the friendship linking him with Steinbrecht. He could always count on a warm welcome, respect and gratitude for the services for the renovation of this monument. At the end of the 19th century, when his activity in the castle intensified, he lived with his wife in the Porter’s House. His “nest” was there, where new projects were created, which fortunately we can admire today in the restored interiors of the Malbork stronghold.
(compiled by A. Dobry)