The first exotic exhibit arrived in the Ethnographic Museum in Kraków as early as in the first year of its operation. This Chinese saddle from Harbin was given by Julian Juliusz Szymański PhD, an ophthalmologist from Chicago, or actually from Kielce, located within the territory of the Russian Empire at the time.
The turn of the 19th and 20th centuries was a period of increased travel around the world for various purposes: exploration, research, and pure tourism. Various objects were brought back from these journeys, among which were both works of art of a specific culture, nation, or social group, as well as various utilitarian objects and souvenirs.
The composition presents a young man with oriental facial features, emanating with sorrow and suffering. He is wearing a decorated dark robe, a royal diadem on his head, and a gold earring in his ear. The painting, in dark tones, was brightened with patches of amber colours for the fragments of the face and shoulders as well as with warm reds for the background.
This large container with a low barrel-shaped belly, a wide neck and an attached hemispherical lid with an arched handle is decorated with an engraved geometrical and plant ornament. These decorations are based on an adherence to the principles of symmetry and harmony according to Quran teachings. The container was made with great attention paid to its appearance and beauty as it is to be a reflection of a better world and to bring good luck.
The portrait of Klementyna Countess Ostrowska, of the aristocratic Sanguszko family (1786–1841), was made around 1822. The author was Vincenzo Camuccini, a famous Italian artist, professor of the Academy of St. Luke in Rome. It comes from the palace of the Sanguszko family in Gumniska where, among a rich collection of works of art, there was also a collection of family portraits.
One of the two twin longcase clocks, decorated with the imitation of green Far Eastern lacquer, comes from the castle in Podhorce, belonging originally to the Rzewuski family and subsequently purchased together with its furnishings by the Sanguszko family. The clock cases distinguish themselves with the pseudo-Chinese decoration painted in gold, enriched with European motifs and “Chinese” figural scenes and landscapes.
Chinese and Japanese porcelain was once an extremely valuable and desirable product in Europe, which was already being imported in the Middle Ages. It was called “white gold”, because it commanded value comparable to this precious metal and was often used as its substitute (e.g. as a gift). At that time, porcelain was viewed as a synonym of luxury and its possession testified to the splendour of the house; only the wealthiest people — mainly royalty — could afford it. In the modern era — in connection with the fashion for Orientalism — porcelain gained such great popularity, that a great effort was made to discover how it was manufactured: one of the most guarded secrets of the East.
The sashes worn with the kontusz by the nobility of the Republic of Poland are of Eastern origin. In Poland they became popular by the agency of Armenians, who first brought them from Persia and Turkey, and later initiated their production in the workshops set up in Poland. The best-known manufacturing factory was located in Słuck.