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“Entombment”

An anonymous, undated work that refers to the tradition of 17th and 18th century painting – both in terms of form and composition.

A sketch of a not created painting “Długosz and St. Kazimierz” by Jan Matejko

The presented pencil drawing by Jan Matejko is a sketch for the painting entitled Długosz and St. Kazimierz which was eventually left unpainted. On his paintings, Matejko often presented historical topics from the reign of the Jagiellonians. One can mention, among others, such paintings as: Stańczyk during a ball at the court of Queen Bona, in the face of the loss of Smolensk (1862), Union of Lublin (1869), The Hanging of the Sigismund bell (1874), or Prussian Homage (1880–1882).

“Gudea” – a plaster cast of an antique sculpture

In the Louvre’s department of Oriental collections, there are more than twenty sculptures considered to be images of Gudea (in total, over thirty images of the ruler have been preserved). Some of the statues present the ruler in a sitting position, some in a standing position. The present plaster copy belongs to the second group. There are five such statues in the Louvre. They all come from Telo: an archaeological site situated at the location of the ancient city of Girsu in present-day Iraq. All five standing statues of Gudea are devoid of heads. The statues from Telo were found during excavations conducted by the French between 1877 and 1933. The cast in the collection of the Academy of Fine Arts in Kraków was made in accordance with the so-called E Statue (reference number AO 6), which was discovered in 1881 by Ernest Choquin de Serzec, who led the excavations at Telo between 1877 and 1900. Normal 0 21 false false false PL X-NONE X-NONE /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:Standardowy; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-priority:99; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0cm 5.4pt 0cm 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0cm; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman","serif"; border:none;}

“Saint George slaying the dragon” – a plaster cast of a medieval sculpture

The bronze original is located in the National Gallery in Prague. Once, it was in the third courtyard of the Prague Castle, where a bronze copy is now located. The original was probably created in 1373 and was funded by the Bohemian King and Roman Emperor Charles IV of Luxembourg, who was at the peak of his power at the time. Normal 0 21 false false false PL X-NONE X-NONE /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:Standardowy; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-priority:99; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0cm 5.4pt 0cm 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0cm; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman","serif"; border:none;}

A black pendant with a cross – a prop from the School of Fine Arts

This is probably a piece of funereal jewellery from the time of the partitions. Corals, along with the cross, have probably been made of black lacquer, with velvet tapes for tying around the neck. The object was used as a prop in the School of Fine Arts in Kraków.

Wael Shawky, “Digital Church”

In the film Digital Church Wael Shawky tries to connect two worlds, the Christian and the Islamic, by staging the surah devoted to the life of Mary, mother of Jesus, recorded in the holy book of Muslims, in the space of the Catholic church. The artist uses the sung recitation of verses, which is traditional for the Islamic world, using the Arabic language, until recently recognized as the only language in which the text of the Quran has a prayer value. Although the recited surah refers to events well-known to Christian believers, the form of its conveyance is strange and confusing to them, and may even – due to the choice of the place of recitation – be perceived as blasphemous.

The tombstone of king Kazimierz III the Great

Kazimierz III’s (Casimir the Great’s) tombstone was sculpted in red limestone from the Hungarian town of Esztergom, which has been traditionally called ‘marble’. It may be assumed that the type of material was consciously selected, since the colour red had been associated with power and reserved for rulers since the time of the Roman Empire. The king’s tomb was sculpted on three sides only. On the top slab, there is a gisant supporting his legs on a lion, which most often symbolised valour in medieval times and was frequently used to propagate royal virtues. Comparing the ruler to a lion is one of the most recurring topoi of medieval culture. The king was depicted as an old man with long hair and a beard styled in tight curls. Works on this subject mistakenly claim this depiction to be a realistic study of the king’s face. In fact it is an example of a physiognomic type typical of the Middle Ages, which aimed at presenting the ruler as a wise and strict old man modelled after depictions of great ancient sages, Old Testament prophets, apostles, and other venerable figures from the past. The king was portrayed in a leather tunic and a loose cloak, garments which were characteristic of court fashion in the 3rd quarter of the 14th century. Especially of note is the magnificent belt comprising elements shaped as fortified buildings. It may be assumed that it carries an eschatological message via reference to the Heavenly Jerusalem.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

The Confusion of Tongues is the third tapestry of the Story of the Tower of Babel series. Unable to comunicate, the people begin to disperse leaving the construction unfinished. Two men in the foreground attempt to interact by using gestures, but it seems that this is in vain. Next to them, two women and a man are sitting in a boat. The man is loading a large package wrapped with string onto the boat. Behind them, resigned people are leaving the construction site; workers with pack animals are going in different directions. The tower itself looks as if it had been abandoned long ago; trees are growing on its lower storeys. God hovers above the tower.

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

The second tapestry in the series The Story of the Tower of Babel shows the consequences of human pride. The builders of the tower wanted it to reach the sky. Human pride angered God, who decided to destroy the work of sinful humanity. Bearded Nimrod, the initiator of the construction, stands at the foot of the tower with hand upraised, trying to shield himself from the Creator, who appears in the upper right hand corner of the textile. Builders working at ground level have scattered their tools and disperse in panic, while those who are on the scaffolding point the angry Creator out to reach other; furter in the background, work continues as if nothing has happened.

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.”

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).

Relief “Agony in the Garden” by Veit Stoss from church of All Saints in Ptaszkowa

The relief with the scene of Christ’s Prayer in Gethsemane is dated from 1493–1495. It came to the church in Ptaszkowa (erected in 1555), presumably in the first half of the 19th century, where it was also discovered. It is considered to be the handiwork of Veit Stoss. Today, this sculptor is considered to be the most famous Nuremberg-Kraków artist. He came from Horb am Neckar, situated in the then so-called Further Austria. Born in 1438, he died in 1533, at the age of 95. He created works in the late Gothic style, mainly around religious themes. In 1477, he resigned from Nuremberg citizenship and moved to Kraków – at that time, the capital of the Kingdom of Poland.

Fragment of a Coptic fabric (“orbiculus”)

Textile executed in tapestry weave and flying-shuttle technique. This element originates from Coptic tunic. The preserved fragment inside an aorbiculus is covered with decoration of the Flechtknoten type.

Alms pouch

A small pouch made of a long piece of fabric sewn in half, reinforced on the sides with a silk tape, with a binding in the top part and a hole for a string used to tighten and loosen the pouch. At the bottom, there are decorative elements (tassels) consisting of gold circles made of thread and long single tassels. The whole pouch is embroidered with split stitch, long and short stitch and fishbone stitch. On one side, there are four human figures among thin trees with palmate leaves resembling oak leaves. On the other side, the same young woman is being led up a hill by the old man. Although interpretation of the scenes on the alms pouch is not certain, it is most likely they depict episodes from the story of Tristan and Iseult. The tale of unhappy love of brave Tristan to beautiful Iseult, the wife of king Mark of Cornwall, was written down for the first time in the 12th century and has been reappearing since then in many countries and language versions. Scenes embroidered on the pouch, enrooted in the Arthurian tradition, depict the clash of a sophisticated world of courtly ways (young and beautiful lovers) with wild forces of nature (the old men). There are only several alms pouches with similar decorations preserved until now.

Rationale of Kraków bishops

The rationale consist of two wide ribbons that form the shoulder pieces, joined at the chest and at the back with large circular shields, to each of which, a pair of slightly narrower ribbons that go diagonally outwards is connected. All parts are covered with small pearls which serve as a background for decorations embroidered with gold thread. In the middle of each shield, inside four concentric circles, there is a standing figure of the Lamb of God with a halo round his head and a vexillum on a crossed flagpole. long the ribbons, separated by narrow strips, there are capitalised inscriptions.The ends of the hanging ribbons are sectioned with couples of strips and include shields with the emblems of the Kingdom of Poland (White Eagle) and the Kingdom of Hungary (Anjou). They are placed in such a way that whether you see the rationale from the front or the back, the Eagle is on the left and the Anjou coat of arms is on the right ribbon. All edges of the rationale are trimmed with a narrow stripe, while the edges of the ribbons are trimmed with long gold tassels. Threaded pearls decorating the rationale were fixed in strings to a linen base reinforced underneath with a thick stiffening. The lining was made of red damask. Several types of yellow thread was used for the embroidery: drawn cored wires – smooth, twisted into ropes, lamellae (plates) and the so called bullion. All stripes, letters, vignettes and the Lamb of God are embroidered on a relief base made of thread. Red-and-gold as well as blue-and-gold lamé was used for the background in the coats of arms.