On the occasion of the 290th anniversary of the birth (17 January 1732), 258th anniversary of the coronation (25 November 1764), and 227the anniversary of the abdication (25 November 1795) of king Stanisław August Poniatowski, the last ruler of the Republic of Two Nations also known as the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, the National Museum in Krakow invites visitors to an exhibition presenting items related the life and reign of the king.
Stanisław August Poniatowski was the initiator and co-author of political and social reforms and one of the main authors of the Constitution of the 3rd of May; he made an enormous contribution to the development of science and education, literature and theatre, architecture and painting.
The aim of the exhibition is to present documents from the times of Poniatowski, royal images, private correspondence, a diary with hand-written notes, and official documents which present him as an enlightened king, a writer, diarist, and patron of the arts and sciences.
Stanisław August Poniatowski was a great lover of books, establishing a private library at the Royal Castle in Warsaw. In doing so, he was motivated not only by a desire to quench his own intellectual and artistic thirst and that of society at large, but also, crucially, to create a place of work for scholars. His commitment to and engagement in the creation of the library is evident in the fact that he often personally managed book purchases, and seeing that the collection was growing (by 1793, some 13,000 volumes had been collected) he ordered the construction of a Royal Library.
The library was of a universal nature, but was dominated by three disciplines which interested Stanisław August the most; philosophy, fine literature, and history. Among the historic items related to his love for books which visitors can enjoy at the exhibition there is a book catalogue drawn up on the orders of the king in 1766, that is when the library was just beginning to arise, and a catalogue of mathematical instruments which the king collected with great enthusiasm.
His interest in history and understanding of the needs of historians is most clearly visible in the huge project which we know as the Naruszewicz Files. The idea of making copies of the most significant documents regarding the history of Poland (the entire collection contains 38 270 copies) came from the king himself, who also funded the project. At the exhibition, visitors can see Volume 8 of the files, which contains copies of 212 documents from the years 1360–1385.
The ruler also left for posterity one of the largest and the third most valuable cartographic collection in Europe. The exhibition presents a map of Warsaw from 1768 dedicated to the king.
One of the most important documents from Stanisław August Poniatowski’s reign is the charter of 1765 establishing the Order of Saint Stanisław, awarded to those who had served the nation and the king.
These are only a few of the exhibits displayed which visitors can see at the exhibition “Stanisław August Poniatowski. The Enlightened King”.Autor: dr Kamilla Twardowska