The tournament armour is compiled of several suits of West-European armours created in the mid-16th century. Its basic parts are the cuirass, collarbone guard, and pads and thigh guards made by the best armourers from southern Germany. The breastplate with the fishbone and goose — that is a protrusion in the stomach area — has vertical stripes with an etched motif of a floral twig entwined over a panoply and musical instruments.
Who was Martin Kromer, author of 16th century work on Polish history, which two editions we present on our website?
The collection of King Zygmunt’s tapestries, since its first presentation in the chambers of Wawel castle, has aroused admiration. The ideological and artistic wealth of the tapestry has provided intellectual stimulus for its contemporary audience. It has also had an impact literary works such as Panegyric by Stanisław Orzechowski. Jan Kochanowski, who had been inspired by the sight of a satyr on one of the royal fabrics (see: Tapestry with the monogram of Zygmunt August on a cartouche held by satyrs),e made the forest god the main hero of his political satire: Satyr or Wild man (1563, published in 1564).
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.
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.
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.
The wall cabinet is made of nut wood, with an architectural structure referring to the façade of a Renaissance palazzo with artistic decoration of human figures and heads fully sculpted. A series of drawers and lockers in symmetrical arrangement are placed around the centrally located architectural construction door. It is placed on a secondary adjusted table, made in the 2nd half of the 19th century — especially for this particular cabinet.
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 Renaissance sculpture depicts a woman standing. Her right hand, which has not survived to this day, pressed a book to her chest; with the left one she holds a coattail.
This plate was originally located above the entrance gate to the city of Biecz. It belonged to Mikołaj Ligęza from Bobrek (c. 1530–1603) who obtained the position of starosta (district governor) of Biecz in 1561, through his marriage to Elżbieta née Jordan, and in 1575 – the position of the governor of Biecz Province from Jan Tarło.
Decorating walls with precious textiles added grandeur and significance to modest interiors. It is known from preserved descriptions and inventories that European rulers highly valued this artwork and loved being surrounded with tapestries since they added splendour to their owners. Tapestries were ordered for specific chambers of a ruler's residence as they performed relevant functions in a given space, expressed through the subject matter of their presentations. A special place in the entire collection of Sigismund II Augustus was occupied by monogram and heraldic tapestries, commissioned probably after 1553 (around 1555). Their subject matter and set of motifs expressed a precisely defined agenda directly related to the person of the ruler and his country.
On one of the seven hills of Rome – the Esquiline Hill – caves full of ancient paintings were excavated around 1480 under the foundations of medieval buildings. Their walls were decorated with fantastic, light and symmetrical structures created of figural, animal and floral motifs. La grotte, or caves, were in fact ruins of the villa of the Emperor Nero. It was called Domus Aurea because of the extraordinarily rich decoration of the walls and the inner part of the dome, which were covered with gold and paintings. They were created between AD 54 and 68 and related to the turn of the Third Style and Fourth Style of Pompeian painting.
The complete novelty was an animal and plant landscape, no longer treated as a background or complement to the scene, but as a separate subject matter. This type of textile was called a verdure (French: verdure) from the word verdir, or “to paint in green”, because of the predominance of this colour. It is sometimes claimed that one of inspirations for this kind of woven depictions was the hunting preferences of clients , as they are often also described as tapestries “to admire hunting” (ad venationem spectantia peristromata) or “fighting animals” (pugnae ferarum). The plant and animal landscape as a separate subject matter initially appeared in tapestries, later in paintings (for example paintings by Roelant Savery, 1576–1639). Verdures created between 1553 and 1560 that are part of the collection of tapestries of Sigismund II Augustus are probably among the first examples of this subject matter in tapestry art.
In the 16th century, Rome attracted artists from the North with a series of discoveries of ancient works, as well as with works of the Renaissance masters – Raphael, Michelangelo and Leonardo. This fascination brought a trend in paintings known as the Netherlandish Romanesque. Its sources were of two kinds.
The Portrait of Sigismund I the Old is one of the very few preserved painted portraits of the ruler. The researchers suppose that it was a prototype of the portrait hanging above the entrance to Sigismund's Chapel, attributed to Andrzej, the painter unknown by his surname.
The sceptre was a symbol of the mayors of Kraków. The form of a sceptre symbolizes power, and this refers to royal sceptres or those of university rectors. It was made of silver, and some of the elements were gilded. The lower part of the handle has a hexagonal cross section, the upper part is round, separated by convex rings. The bead of the head is topped with a disc and finished with an openwork frieze of lilies.
Portraits of the members of the Sanguszko family, one of the wealthiest and most influential families in the former Commonwealth, as well as of their closest relatives make a large group in the collection of the Museum in Tarnów. They were a part of the furnishing and decoration of palace interiors in numerous ducal mansions. The portrait presented here comes from Slavuta situated on the Horyn, one of the main rivers of Volhynia (Ukraine).
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.
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.
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.