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.
Verdures – tapestries presenting animals in a lanscape setting – are a large subset within the collection of Sigismund II Augustus. They can be divided into three groups. Turkeys is a part of a set of sixteen textiles in the shape of a horizontal rectangle. Central area is framed only by a narrow border of interweaving ribbons and flowers. They present animals commonly known in Europe, as well as exotic ones, such as turkeys, which were brought to Europe from America at that time. All the creatures are depicted amid the scenery of a Central European forest, in which, apart from the oaks, ivies and reeds typical of this region, there are fig trees and grapevines can.
The tapestry has been preserved in two parts. Like other arcade tapestries of this type, which were designed to be put up above window recesses, it was damaged when it was kept in Russia in the nineteenth century. At that time, its central section was cut out. In both sections of the textile, a goddess is shown with a palm wreath on her head. The seated figure holds a cornucopia in her hands, which allows us to identify her as Ceres, the Roman goddess of the harvest.
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.
The grotesque tapestry with a monogram of King Sigismund Augustus (SA – Sigismundus Augustus) and a globe is part of a series of decorative textiles in which the royal monogram plays the major role. Before our eyes, an extravaganza unfolds of ancient gods, birds, animals, fruit and flower garlands. On the axis of the composition is placed an oval shield with the monogram of the king, covered with a closed crown. A richly decorated frame is surrounded by a wreath of fruit. Aside from apples, grapes and lemons, there is also a pineapple, brought to Europe by Christopher Columbus.
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).
The tapestry belongs to the same series of tapestries designed to be hung under window sills as the Under Window Tapestry with the figures playing the shells. Two textiles with monkey scenes have been preserved from the total of fourteen tapestries of this group. All the small tapestries were sewn on to over-window and over-door tapestries in Russia (to where they had been taken away in 1795). The artificially assembled elements were unstitched after this part of the collection had been repossessed in 1922. The tapestry with inv. no. 128 was the one which had been damaged to the relatively smallest extent; it was cut mainly at the side edges. Quite a big part of a rectangular shape is missing on the left side.
Two satyrs hold a blue shield with a decorative monogram SA (Sigismundus Augustus) of King Sigismund Augustus. The cartouche is topped with a closed crown. The mythological deities stand in a frame of richly ornamented strips of wood, curved in an arc, against a forest landscape. The deity which can be seen on the left of the shield has a wreath of vine on its head and is girded with a vine with clusters of ripe grapes.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The tapestry depicts Victoria, the Roman goddess of victory. At her bare feet lies a pile of weapons; she is flanked by two coats of arms: of Poland and of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. On her right are the arms of the Kingdom Poland – the Eagle with the monogram of Sigismund II Augustus, the last king of the Jagiellonian dynasty – surmounted by a closed crown. The arms of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania – the Charging Knight surmounted by the Grand Ducal cap – are on her left. The winged goddess is attired in a breastplate. In one hand, she holds a laurel wreath, in the other a broken spear. The olive branches behind her symbolize peace. Victoria is shown against a red background with a decorative framework recalling wrought iron that serves as a scaffolding of sorts for bunches of fruit and flowers. The oval blue fields in which the coats of arms are placed are entwined with climbing plants. The White Eagle with the royal monogram is surrounded by vines, and the Lithuanian Charging Knight by pea plants with both blooms and mature pods. Birds perch on hanging bunches of fruit in the upper part of the tapestry and on the decorative framework at the bottom.
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.
One of six furniture tapestries in the shape of a horizontal rectangle with the SA initials of the King. It belongs to a group of textiles used to cover chairs. Eleven of such textiles have been preserved to this day (others were decorated with bouquets of flowers in vases). The small horizontal tapestries were used as backrests of furniture. The initials under a closed crown, woven with a gold thread, were placed in a blue field surrounded by an oval wreath. On the axis of the field, at the top and bottom, there are two masks – a singing one and a sleeping one. Slender vases with bouquets of fruit and flowers (columbines and anemones) are placed on the sides.
One of sixteen over-door and over-window tapestries with the coats of arms of both parts of the Commonwealth. They were counterparts of large heraldic tapestries and their purpose was to fill the castle with heraldic motifs of national importance. Their format was adapted to the architecture of Wawel. They were produced as part of the programme for complete decoration of representative chambers with Brussels tapestries.
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.
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.
Another tapestry of a group of over-door and over-window textiles with the national coat of arms. Its size indicates that it was to be placed in a wide window bay. Eleven tapestries designed for this purpose have been preserved. The tapestry was used in Russia (in the years 1795–1922) as the covering of a sofa seat (a heraldic tapestry with the White Eagle was attached to the sofa's backrest). In 1922, during the recovery of the Sigismund collection, both tapestries were repossessed along with the furniture.
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).