The Past for the Future. The Czartoryski Family for the Nation
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The exhibition titled 'The Past for the Future. The Czartoryski Family for the Nation' is on display at the Royal Castle in Niepołomice and provides its visitors with an opportunity to commune with the outstanding collections of historical keepsakes and works of art which became part of Polish culture thanks to the Czartoryski family.
It presents a collection of selected museum exhibits, combines Polonica and objects related to the history and culture of Western Europe, emphasizes the great diversity of the holdings which encompass painting, decorative arts, militaria, as well as antiquities and prints, which are not displayed at the exhibition.
The exhibition presents a number of objects originating from the Puławy period. Works particularly worth attention, placed in special ornamental settings, include relics of famous figures: El Cid and Jimena, Abelard and Heloise, Petrarch and Laura. They are displayed next to the key to the Temple of Sybil in the shape of the Greek caduceus, bearing an inscription MNEMEZ ANOIGO HIERON – 'I Am Opening the Temple of Remembrance'. It is important to remember that it is the key to the first and the oldest Polish museum.
One of the display cabinets in the middle of the room features, among other objects, a beautiful rock crystal bottle which reportedly once belonged to the King of France – Francis I, a powder horn belonging to the king of England – Henry VIII, as well as a cap which was allegedly worn by Napoleon Bonaparte when he crossed the Berezina River during his retreat from Moscow.
There is also an important group of Polish militaria – two karacena armours from Vienna (with the adjacent depictions of king John III Sobieski and Zygmunt Zbierzchowski, who led a trial hussar attack in Vienna), and melee weapons: commemorative swords of Tadeusz Kościuszko, Prince Józef Poniatowski and General Karol Kniaziewicz.
Other types of weapons worth mentioning here include an impressive rapier traditionally attributed to Martin Luther, and the crossbow bolt exhibited in Puławy as William Tell's arrow. The alleged portrait of the legendary Swiss freedom fighter can be seen above the display case containing the arrow.
Another eye-catching item is the panoply placed on the wall, consisting of an impressive Renaissance armour for a rider and a horse, belonging to Prince Albert – the governor of the Netherlands.
Noteworthy works of diverse decorative arts include a set of Renaissance and Baroque silverware, featuring impressive goblets in the shape of a peacock and a ship, ornamental maces and the Wiśniowieckis' baton decorated with precious stones. Other items which attract the visitor's attention are the magnificent ceremonial Renaissance shields, particularly one – suspended over the passage to the second hall and depicting the battle of Emperor Constantine with Maxentius – called the Auspicious Shield, associated with John III Sobieski. Opposite, on the other side of the room, hangs a richly ornamented Turkish shield - Kalkan.
The other hall presents particularly valuable medieval religious objects – products made of enamel and ivory, as well as Renaissance Flemish embroidery depicting Virgin and Child with St Anne. Among the numerous works, particularly noteworthy paintings include those visible from afar, from the very entrance – 'The Annunciation' by a Krakow painter Georgius, dating back to 1517, an impressive altar painting recovered in 1802 by Princess Izabela Czartoryska from the ruins of one of the churches on the Wawel hill, 'The Crucifixion' by the Sienese Pieta Master (14th century), 'Christ in Majesty' by Mariotto di Nardo (14th century), 'The Annunciation' and 'Our Lady of Sorrows' (15th century) from the workshop of the Netherlandish artists from the Bouts family.
Other notable examples of religious works displayed in the second hall include Renaissance paintings such as 'St Catherine' by Kulmbach, 'Holy Family' by Palma Vecchio, 'The Adoration of the Magi' by Garofalo, and a small painting featuring scenes from the life and Passion of Christ, which in Puławy was considered to constitute the so-called Altar of King Sigismund Augustus.
The first hall of the exhibition presents remarkable Renaissance secular paintings: 'Scenes from the Story of the Roman Lucretia' and 'Two Pairs of Lovers: Paris and Helena, as well as Tristan and Isolde', both of which constituted parts of painted Italian wedding chests, the so-called cassones (15th century), a scene of Brutus and Portia (unidentified Verona painter, early 16th century), 'Portrait of a Man with a Glove' by Jan Mostaert, and a small 'Portrait of Isabella, the Queen of Denmark' by the Master of the Legend of the Magdalen (the Netherlands, c. 1515).
The 16th-century French portraits on the other side of the hall notably feature a small-sized 'Portrait of Mary Stuart' and the alleged 'Portrait of Don Juan of Austria', who in 1571 conquered the Turks in the naval battle of Lepanto.
The display also presents the images of the Czartoryski family members – the creators of the museum. At the entrance to the exhibition, we can see 'Portrait of Princess Isabella Czartoryska' painted in London in 1790 by Maria Cecilia Cosway, a marble 'Bust of Prince Władysław Czartoryski' by Wiktor Brodzki, adjacent to a painting by Jan Matejko – sketch of a horse for 'The Battle of Grunwald' dedicated to Władysław Czartoryski. The second exhibition hall features the 'Bust of Adam Jerzy Czartoryski' by Klemens Boryczewski.
Adam Jerzy Czartoryski's greatest contribution for the museum was the purchase of paintings by Leonardo da Vinci and Raphael.