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The establishment of the Princes Czartoryski Museum was made possible thanks to the involvement of Princess Izabela Czartoryska (1746-1835), whose desire was to preserve the records of Polish history for posterity.
The motto „The Past for the Future”, engraved above the entrance to the Temple of Sibyl built in 1801 in Puławy, captured the essence of the objects stored in this treasury - paintings, handicrafts and militaria related to the famous Polish personages.
The other museum building - the Gothic House opened in 1809 - housed the works of art and memorabilia of famous foreign personages. The failure of the November uprising forced the family to leave Puławy and transfer the collection to a safe place - Paris. This city and the Hôtel Lambert residence constitute the elements of the next stage of assembling the collection. Prince Władysław Czartoryski (1828-1894) acquired the exhibits both during his travels and in Paris itself, with the aim of creating a modern museum of academic nature. In 1876, the collection was transferred to Krakow and made available to the public. The edifice of the municipal Arsenal, the former Piarists' monastery and the houses on the corner of Św. Jana and Pijarska Streets were merged in subsequent years into one museum complex designed by Gabriel Ouradou.
The building of the Arsenal, at no. 8 Pijarska Street, is home to the Gallery of Ancient Art, which exhibits relics of ancient Mediterranean cultures from the collections of the Czartoryski family, the National Museum in Krakow and the deposit of the Potocki family of Krzeszowice.
The assembled objects, which date back to the period from the 3rd millennium BC to the 4th century AD, are characterized by a great diversity in terms of materials and production techniques. Works of art are accompanied by everyday objects: marble sculptures and reliefs are presented next to terracotta and wooden sarcophagi, mosaics and fragments of wall paintings, small figurines, ceramics - a collection of Greek vases, jewellery, glass vessels and bronze objects. A unique element of the exhibition is the collection of Egyptian art: anthropoid sarcophagi and a cartonnage in the shape of a mummy formed of glued linen layers as well as objects for everyday use and those related to cult.
Text by Dr Dorota Gorzelany – manager of the Ancient Art Department of the National Museum in Krakow
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