We know who the “Righteous Among the Nations” are. We know for what kind of behaviour warrants being awarded this title, medal, diploma, the possibility of planting a tree in the Avenue of the Righteous (today there is no room for new trees, so a commemorative plaque is placed in the wall), and since 1995 – the honorary citizenship of the State of Israel. According to data published on the website of the Yad Vashem Institute in January 2013, there were already 24,811 people of non-Jewish origin who were recognized in this way. New ones keep on coming. Many will pass away before anyone discovers or recalls their often daring, “righteous” demeanour in unjust times. But, do we know where this term comes from? Does it reflect the nature of the behaviour at that time well? It is hard to doubt that it was righteous, but don’t you wonder about the origin of this expression? Why does it say “righteous” and not “good,” for example?
What tales were engraved on the surface of the goblet? Who are the characters depicted on the dish? Thanks to the 3D technique, by turning the goblet, you can read the entire biblical story recorded in the Old Testament Book of Judges. We invite you to read and wander through the details and secrets of this precious object.
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.
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.”
The fragment of a Coptic fabric was purchased in Cairo by soldiers of the Polish Independent Carpathian Rifle Brigade during WW II and subsequently granted to the Archaeological Museum. It is a fragment of a linen fabric with two vertically sewn straps of different widths.
Seductive Salome, as a symbol of a femme fatale, became a character of numerous paintings, sculptures, literary and musical works. She excited the imagination of artists, especially in the decadent period of fin de siècle, when possessive and lethal femininity constituted one of the most important motifs in art.
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.
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 sculpture depicts the figure of a king standing in a contrapposto pose, turned slightly right. The sculpture is a copy (with some modifications) of the Saint Sigismund's statue, made in marble, which is placed in the right niche of the southern wall of the Sigismund's Chapel (the so-called throne wall).
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).
Salome, the daughter of Herodias and stepdaughter of King Herod Antipas, danced so beautifully that the ruler let her ask for anything she wanted. Her wish, suggested by cruel Herodias, was John the Baptist’s head. Biblical Salome is one of frequent motifs in the iconography of European art. The archetype of a dangerous seductress fascinated artists of all epochs.
The parchment scroll containing text of the Five Books of Moses, i.e. the Books of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy was hand-written in Hebrew, rolled onto two sticks; the so-called ace(i) chaim [shafts of life] made of oak wood was furnished at the ends with pairs of wooden plates with a diameter of 17.5 cm, and handles for rolling the scrolls. The handles are profiled, with a head decorated with ivory buttons in the upper part and an ivory sleeve at the bottom.
In the panegyric of Stanisław Orzechowski (Panagyricus nuptiarum Sigismundi Augusti Poloniae Regis), describing events of the wedding ceremony of Sigismund Augustus and Catherine of Austria, an ekphrasis was preserved which illustrates the tapestries of biblical themes, including Paradise Bliss from the series The History of the First Parents. This text is valuable inasmuch as it includes the first information that ever appeared on the tapestries, helpful in dating the commissioned series. It is also, or perhaps above all, a record of impressions and reactions of the contemporary audience, constituting in some way a commentary of their worldview.
A guild counter was used for keeping documents connected with the guild, the power insignia of seniors, guild books. The counter of the surgeons’ guild is a cuboid wooden chest with a cover. Its external walls are decorated with panels, ornamented with rhombus motifs filled with stars made in the technique of intarsia (a form of inlaying wooden surfaces with other types of wood).
The Megillat Esther binding is a case for storing a parchment scroll of the Book of Esther. The Biblical Book of Esther tells the story of how Esther, the wife of the Persian King Ahasuerus, thwarted the plans of Minister Haman aiming to annihilate the Jews who inhabited the Persian Empire. To commemorate these events, on the 14th and 15th day of the month of Adar the Jews celebrate the joyful holiday of Purim.
The Jagiellonian tapestry Paradise Bliss is the first fabric of the History of the First Parents series, commissioned by Sigismund II Augustus and created in Brussels during the years 1550–1560. It depicts events of the beginning of the Biblical Book of Genesis (Gen 2.8.–3.20).
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.
The pyx was purchased for the collection in 1998. Probably it is from an unknown village in the Gorlice region. After the war, she was kept at the family of a priest from a local village, as a unused. A pyx (Latin: ciborium, pyxis) is a container used to carry the consecrated host. It takes the form of a cup with a matching lid.
The Włocławek cup is the most precious and one of the oldest exhibits of decorative art from the collections at the National Museum in Kraków. It was made in the 1st half of the 10th century, presumably in a workshop located on the territory of Lorraine or Alemannia.