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Jagiellonian tapestry “Dragon Fighting with a Panther”

Imaginary animals are not predominant in tapestry presentations but sometimes appear there. Their presence usually has a symbolic meaning. In the tapestry Dragon Fighting with a Panther, this is derived from Physiologus, which is an ancient treatise on animals containing, aside from their description, an allegorical interpretation of animals, plants and minerals. According to it, the panther is loved by all animals, with the exception of the dragon. Such a presentation was interpreted as an allegory of Christ's struggle against Satan. Here, the dragon symbolises the forces of evil, and the panther the forces of good.

King Władysław’s III of Varna tombstone

The gravestone of Władysław III of Varna is shaped as a tomb, with the figure of the ruler dressed in full armour on the top slab. The giasant has a youthful face with idealised features and holds a bare sword against his chest – Szczerbiec – which serves the purpose of styling the King as an ideal Christian knight. The introduction of a particular object known to all Poles, in this case the coronation sword of polish kings, into the composition had been adopted a number of times in the culture of the 19th century, especially in Jan Matejko’s paintings. It served the purpose of making past events and figures more probable by linking them to particular items or works of art that were considered national relics. Such combinations were not always justified from a historical perspective, but they were used consciously, according to the rules of philosophy of history, which in the distant past allowed for an insight into God’s plans and some general principles governing the history of the country divided by the three partitioning powers.

Over Door Tapestry with the Arms of Lithuania on landscape background with Animals ‒ a Spotted Hyena and a Monkey

This textile was designed to be hung over a door, hence its shape – a rectangle topped with an arc. In its centre, there is the coat of arms of Lithuania – the Charging Knight, turned to the left. The arms are surmounted by the grand ducal cap and suspended on floral garlands. Exotic animals are presented on either side of the coat of arms: on the left, a small predator prowls around, while on the right, a sits monkey that seems to be staring at the viewer. In the background of the tapestry, an immature forest can be seen.

Jagiellonian tapestry “God Conversing with Noah” from the “Story of Noah” series

The textile depicts one of the episodes of the Book of Genesis and is one of eight tapestries of the Sigismund collection forming a series dedicated to the figure of Noah. The Latin inscription in the upper border perfectly desribes the scene taking place below: “Noah walks with God. God reveals to Noah the future flood and commands him to build an ark for salvation”. God warns Noah – the only righteous inhabitant of the earth – that because of mankind’s sins, he intends to flood the earth. He tells Noah to build an ark in order to save Noah’s family. Noah is also to bring a pair of animals of each species into the ark (Genesis 6:13–21).

Tapestry Bearing the Arms of Poland and Lithuania and the figure of Ceres

The tapestry is part of a group of twelve textiles with the coats of arms of Poland and Lithuania against a background of ornamentation called Netherlandish grotesque. It belongs to a subgroup in which the coats of arms of both parts of the Commonwealth are entrusted to the care of the Roman goddess Ceres – a patron of peace, abundance and prosperity. The slender female figure in robes, modelled on clothing of ancient statues, holds a sickle and cornucopia, and stands in the middle on a marble podium. The sickle in her hand and a wreath of grain ears on her head bring associations with summer – the season of harvest, while the cornucopia symbolises prosperity.

Tapestry with the Monogram of Sigismund Augustus in Medallion

A tapestry of the same size and the same function as the tapestry with the Monogram of Sigismund Augustus in Cartouche. It belongs to a group of three monogram grotesques with the initials SA inscribed within an oval medallion. In the middle of the composition, there is a blue convex medallion with the entwined initials SA under a closed crown, placed against a background of a drapery supported by two angels sitting on crosspieces of a metal frame (a motif typical of Netherlandish grotesque).

Painting “Portrait of King Augustus III in a Polish costume”

The representative room of the Bishop Erazm Ciołek Palace, known as the Room of Virtues, houses the gallery of old Polish portrait paintings that were common in the old Poland. For the nobility, their own images and depictions of their relatives and ancestors formed a vital factor for building family and social ties and documenting genealogy and affiliations.

Jagiellonian tapestry “Stork and Rabbits”

Portrayals of animals (both European and exotic) in verdures were modelled on engravings from zoological atlases, which began to appear around the mid-16th century. Artists tried to depict specimens of a given species as accurately as possible, appending written descriptions to their prints. Such prints were very popular at that time, and cartoon painters used them to draw models for the animals that appear in the Wawel tapestries.

Jagiellonian tapestry “The Spread of the Nations” from the “Story of the Tower of Babel” series

In front of us, the last act of the history of the Tower of Babel takes place – The Spread of the Nations. On a meadow at the foot of the hill, a group of people can be seen, with two men standing and five women sitting next to them on the grass. All attempts to communicate with one another have been in vain, the evidence of which is a tablet in the hands of the woman in a blue dress.

Painting “Portrait of Jan Sobieski”

The portrait presents Jan Sobieski (1629–1696) of the ”Janina” coat of arms, the son of the Kraków castellan and Teofilia née Daniłowicz. It is one of the rare images of Sobieski, the Grand Hetman of the Crown (1688) before his election for the King of Poland in 1674. Jan Sobieski, the hero of Chocim and Vienna, was born in the castle in Olesko, near Podhorce. He was the descendant of the famous hetman, Stanisław Żółkiewski.

Star of the Order of Saint Stanislaus

The order was established by Stanisław August Poniatowski on 7 May 1765. Until the end of the sovereign Republic of Poland, it was not divided into classes, and it was awarded in a uniform shape.

The tombstone of king Władysław I the Short

The circumstances in which Władysław I Łokietek’s gravestone was founded remain unknown. The artistic form of the tomb was mentioned for the first time as late as in Annals of the Famous Kingdom of Poland by Jan Długosz : his body is buried in the cathedral church by the main altar, to the left, in a tomb of white marble adorned with sculptures and a canopy, in front of St. Władysław’s altar, which he, in his lifetime, ordered to be built and furnished. St. Władysław’s altar mentioned here was actually founded by Łokietek’s son – Kazimierz the Great – most likely soon after 1333.

Painting “Equestrian portrait of Prince Władysław Sigismund Vasa”

The picture depicts Prince Władysław Sigismund Vasa, later Władysław IV Vasa, the King of Poland. It was painted by an unknown artist of Rubens' circle, and it repeats the pattern established by Rubens in other similarly composed equestrian portraits he painted (i.a. the portrait of Giancarlo Doria, 1602, Florence, the Palazzo Vecchio; the portrait of Duke of Lerma, 1603, Madrid, the Museo del Prado).

Chair Upholstery Tapestry with a Bouquet of Flowers

This small tapestry belongs to a group of textiles intended as chair upholstery. It shows a colourful bouquet of flowers in a vase decorated with animal masks and small golden garlands. The flowers in the vase are probably large two-coloured irises interwoven with blooms of clematis with dark green leaves. The composition is complemented with blue periwinkles. In the corners of the tapestry, lion masks are placed on the border of interwoven ribbons filled with a floral ornament. The border ornament is characteristic of the entire collection.

Under Window Tapestry with the figures playing the shells

It belongs to a series of fourteen tapestries designed to be hung under window sills. Most of them were damaged. After they had been taken to Russia in 1795, they were cut and sewn together to form semi-circular over-window or over-door tapestries. Upon their recovery from the Soviet Union in 1922, they were unstitched and put back together to reconstruct their original appearance. In the middle of the horizontal frieze, there is a metal vase supported on lion paws, filled with fruit and leaves. A huge eggplant and zucchini spill out of the vase. On both its sides, on a frame linking all the elements, two putti are perched, one of them with a bow and a quiver.

The tombstone of king Kazimierz IV Jagiellończyk

Kazimierz IV’s tomb is one of the most spectacular pieces of late gothic art. On the one hand, it clearly refers to a local tradition started by Władysław I Łokietek’s tombstone; on the other hand, it comprised of a number of unique iconographic solutions that exhibit erudition of local intellectual circles. The king lies on the top slab of the tomb, but his figure is presented in an utterly exceptional way. It is an extremely expressive and veristic image because the ruler was captured in agony. What is more, unlike the earlier royal tombs in Kraków, Kazimierz IV is dressed in a clergyman’s robe, which was used only for a coronation ceremony. The richly draped cope, clasped at the chest with a magnificent brooch, attracts special attention. It is a singular image with no analogical piece found so far. It is most often interpreted within the scope of patristics of the early Christian Church; the king’s physical death was juxtaposed with the birth of the soul to eternal life.

The tombstone of king Jan I Olbracht

The tomb of Jan I Olbracht is a milestone piece not only for Kraków artistic circles but for the entire country. It was sculpted in the years 1502–1505 and consists of two parts executed by two different artists of different backgrounds, education and experience. From the local tradition of commemorating dead rulers derives the tomb sculpted in red stone from the Esztergom quarry, placed in a very deep niche carved into the western wall of a chapel. The tomb is decorated on the front side only (the sides are not exposed), while figural representations were replaced by a rectangular inscribed plaque. This simple and sophisticated solution clearly refers to the art of ancient Rome, in which inscription plaques were the basic element of commemoration of the deceased (Lat. tabulae ansatae). The long inscription was carved in the humanist capitals that had been created based on ancient Roman letterforms and is one of the first instances where such a font was used in Poland.

Jagiellonian tapestry “The Building of the Tower of Babel” from the “Story of the Tower of Babel” series

In this, one of the three largest tapestries in the collection of King Sigismund II Augustus, we can see the beginning of the story of the construction of the Tower of Babel as described in the Book of Genesis. The scene shows Nimrod, the legendary hunter, and people building a tower “whose top may reach unto heaven” (Genesis 11:1–9) under his leadership. The building under construction is situated in the background, on the right hand side of the textile, whereas on the left side, there can be seen workers erecting the tower. Thanks to the detailed presentation, we can see, among other things, what sixteenth-century stonemasonry tools looked like. On the vast plain, people bustle around carrying blocks of stone and building a scaffolding. God, barely visible to the right of the tower, watches their feverish work. As in the other biblical tapestries, there is no shortage of accurately rendered images of animals, insects and plants. The Latin inscription placed in the upper border reads in translation: “Nimrod, the first powerful ruler in the world, built a huge tower of baked bricks. God confounded the builders’ languages, and the work was never completed.”

Over-Window Tapestry with the Arms of Poland on a Landscape Background with Animals ‒ a Dormouse and a Dog-like Predator

In the centre of the textile, a shield with the coat of arms of Poland – the White Eagle – is suspended by flower garlands. The Eagle has the royal monogram SA on its chest. On the left side, a dormouse sits, while on the right, there is a small dog-like predator. The rectangular textile is topped with an arc, as it was used to decorate a window recess.

The foundation act of King Casimir the Great

At the request of the king, on 12 June 1350, Bodzanta, the Bishop of Kraków, established a parish in the royal village of Niepołomice, thus reorganizing the rural areas adjacent to the parish.