In the beginning of the 17th century the medieval abode of the Dukes of Masovia was largely extended to house the parliament of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, offices and court of the Vasas. The Italian architects Giovanni Trevano, Giacomo Rodondo, Paolo de la Corte and Mateo Castello constructed a Mannerist-early Baroque five-sided shape palace between 1598-1619. In 1621-1627, with the threat of Ottoman invasion, the palace was fortified with a curtain wall from the Vistula according to Italian concept of palazzo in fortezza. Between 1634 and 1637 a large hall was constructed in upper parts of the southern wing to house opera hall of King Ladislaus IV and in 1637 the staircase tower was largely remodelled (Ladislaus' Tower). In 1643 the Prince-Cardinal Charles Ferdinand Vasa's Palace was erected on the northern bastion of the Castle's curtain wall and in 1644 a new gate (Saint John's Gate) and the Sigismund Column were erected by royal architect Constantino Tencalla in Baroque style.
During the so-called Deluge of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (invasion of allied forces of Sweden from north, Brandenburg from west, Transilvania from south and Muscovy from East), the castle was devastated in three occupations by foreign forces between 1655-1656 (the last was Transilvanian occupation). All valuables, including marble pavements, chimneys and window sills were shipped to Sweden, while the interiors were turned into stables and a hospital.
Detail of the Plan of Warsaw in 1656 by Nicolas Pérelle after Erik Dahlbergh, printed in 1696. The fortifications of the Royal Castle in Warsaw were built in the years 1596-1627 giving the structure the more modern appearance according to principles of the Old Italian School (circle of Antonio da Sangallo). They consisted of a 162-metre-long curtain wall flanked by bastions on either side. Two shorter walls connected the bastions with the Castle. The wall rose at least 6.70 metres above the ground level. The fortifications were made of granite rocks, and due to the instability of the terrain, oak piles were also driven into the ground, the basic material for the surface construction was limestone surmounted with bricks. The remnants of the fortifications were absorbed by subsequent buildings in the 18th-century.
2. Old Town Hall at the Main Market Square
3. Saint John's Cathedral
4. Royal Castle
5. Courtyard before the castle with Baroque Saint John's Gate
6. Sigismund Column
7. Medieval Cracow's Gate
Portrait of Philip III of Spain by Andrés López Polanco, ca. 1617, Skoklosters slott, possibly from the collection of Sigismund III Vasa. In 1615 Queen Constance of Austria, Sigismund's second wife, ordered the Commonwealth's ambassador in Spain to ask for the portraits of the members of the Spanish Royal family. Her elder sister Margaret of Austria, was a wife of King Philip III of Spain. Since the new Holy Roman Emperor, Matthias, resided more frequently in Vienna then in Prague from 1612, the portraits of Spanish Habsburgs would be sent to Vienna after this date, consequently it is more probable that the Philip III's portrait was captured by Swedish forces in Warsaw and not in Prague.
Sigismund III Vasa on catafalque by Christian Melich, 1633, Wawel Royal Castle.
Ladislaus' Tower of the Castle, 1637.
Dutch tile with a soldier, 1630s, from the excavations in the Castle's garden.
Stove tile with a lion or a griffon, 17th century, from the excavations in the Castle's garden.
Tile with eagles from a stove, 17th century, from the excavations in the Castle's garden.
Portrait of bearded female court dwarf Helena Antonia Galeckha of Liège by Anonymous from Wrocław, ca. 1621, National Museum in Wrocław. Helena Antonia came to Poland in 1605 as a maid of honour of Queen Constance of Austria.
Hunting set of eviscerating instruments of Sigismund III Vasa made of iron and stag's horn by Anonymous from Poland or Germany, 1621, National Museum in Warsaw. Maker's mark in the form of three towers. Adorned with crowned cartouche with arms of Poland, Lithuania, Sweden, Gotland and the Vasas and a hunting scene - stag brought to bay by hounds; in compartments three small knives.
Polish hussar saddle by Anonymous from Poland, before 1600, Kremlin Museum, from the collection of Sigismund III Vasa.
Silverware of Sigismund III Vasa in archaeological cabinet in Kraków, published in Tygodnik ilustrowany, 1877, No. 64.
Ship-shaped table decoration with the Colossus of Rhodes of Sigismund III Vasa by Georgius Sporboth, 1580s, Kremlin Museum.
Ewer from a hand wash set of John Casimir Vasa by David Schwestermüller, ca. 1640, Kremlin Museum.
Silver vessel in the form of a camel by Salomon von der Rennen, Gdańsk, 1642-1644, Kremlin Museum. Presented by the Commonwealth's ambassador Adam Kisel to Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich in 1647. Possibly a royal commission that adorned Castle's interiors.
Crystal bowl by Anonymous from Western Europe (Milan?), beginning of the 17th century, Kremlin Museum. Presented by King Ladislaus IV Vasa to Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich in 1645.
Salt cellar made by Sigismund III Vasa, 1610s, Treasury of the Munich Residence.
Ciborium made by Sigismund III Vasa, before 1623, destroyed during World War II.
Filigree tray by Anonymous from Poland, ca. 1620, Schatzkammer der Residenz München, from dowry of Anna Catherine Constance Vasa.
Amber platter by Anonymous from Königsberg, 1620s, Kremlin Museum. Presented by the Commonwealth's ambassador Józef Gabriel Stepkowski to Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich in 1645. Possibly a royal commission that adorned Castle's interiors. Among gifts from King Ladislaus IV Vasa in 1645 there were also:
- a chess table with a set of chess pieces,
- a very large platter in silver frame,
- several magnificent cups,
- a coffer,
- a small chest of drawers with numerous amber souvenirs in it,
- a crucifixion scene in amber.
Amber candlesticks decorated with ivory by Anonymous from Gdańsk or Königsberg, mid 17th century, Kremlin Museum. Possibly a royal commission that adorned Castle's interiors and was presented to the Tsar of Russia.
Casket regal, a small portable organ, by Anonymous from Poland, ca. 1640, Royal Castle in Warsaw, from the court of Ladislaus IV Vasa.
Button of Sigismund III Vasa and parts from the so-called "Vasa chain" by Anonymous from Poland, before 1632, Jasna Góra Treasury.
Enamelled gold medal in filigree frame of Ladislaus IV Vasa by Anonymous from Poland, ca. 1636, Kunsthistorisches Museum.
Portrait of Queen Cecilia Renata of Austria, first wife of Ladislaus IV Vasa by Peter Danckerts de Rij, ca. 1643, Pushkin Museum in Moscow. The painting initially adorned the Marble Room at the Royal Castle in Warsaw.
Portrait of Queen Marie Louise Gonzaga, second wife of Ladislaus IV Vasa by Anonymous painter after Justus van Egmont, between 1646-1650, Grazie di Curtatone (Mn), Santuario della B. V. delle Grazie, Sagrestia Nuova.
Miniature of Queen Marie Louise Gonzaga by Jean Petitot, before 1650, Ham House, Surrey.
Reconstruction of the Opera Hall of Ladislaus IV Vasa at the Royal Castle in Warsaw. Double-storied and over 50m long room was constructed before 1637 and finally destroyed by Russian troops in 1707.
1. Great Staircase
2. Vestibule before the Senate Chamber
3. Senate Vestibule
5. Audience space
Design for a coffered ceiling for the Royal Castle or Villa Regia Palace in Warsaw by Giovanni Battista Gisleni, 1637/1643, Dresden State Art Collections.
Silver plaque with the Washing of the Feet (upper part) and the Last Supper (lower part) by Matthias Walbaum, circa 1623-1625, Vilnius Cathedral, turned to serve as a tabernacle door before 1712. Possibly one of a series of silver plaques commissioned in Augsburg by Sigismund III Vasa. Current location, Vilnius Cathedral, close to the former Ducal Palace, makes it even more probable. Very similar plaques by Walbaum are in the Visitationist Church in Warsaw (Altar of Marie Louise Gonzaga, turned into a tabernacle) and in the Diocesan Museum in Płock (Portable altar of Constance of Austria).
Ebony altar adorned with silver plaques with the scenes from the life of the Virgin Mary by Hans Jakob I Bacchmann, 1624, Jasna Góra Treasury. Most probably commissioned by Sigismund III Vasa.
Gold statuette of Saint John the Evangelist by Anonymous from Augsburg, 1610s, Cathedral Treasury in Wrocław. King Sigismund III had 12 statues of the apostles of pure gold on an ebony base and a statue of the Saviour, the Virgin Mary, and that of holy martyr Sigismund, all of pure gold. The statuette of Saint John the Evangelist was donated by Sigismund's son, Charles Ferdinand Vasa, to the Wrocław Cathedral.
Reliquary for a piece of wood from the Holy Cross with imperial double-headed eagle and figures of St. Ladislaus and St. Cecilia by Hornus Reutel, 1637, Treasury of the Dominican Monastery in Kraków, wedding gift to Ladislaus IV and Cecilia Renata of Austria from Rafał Mikołaj Korsak, Uniate Metropolitan Archbishop of Kiev.
Chasuble according to tradition donated by Queen Cecilia Renata between 1642 and 1644, fabric from Italy first half of the 16th century, Jasna Góra Treasury.
Portraits of two sisters, daughters of Philip III of Spain and Margaret of Austria: Empress Maria Anna of Spain by Frans Luycx, ca. 1638 and Anne of Austria, Queen of France by Charles Beaubrun, ca. 1645. Both portraits were given to the Visitationist Monastery in Warsaw by John II Casimir Vasa in September 1668 and by most accounts adorned Castle walls.
Portrait of Eleonora Gonzaga (1630-1686) by Frans Luycx, ca. 1651, Nationalmuseum in Stockholm. A portrait of a relative to Queen Marie Louise Gonzaga and a wife of Emperor Ferdinand III, cousin of John II Casimir Vasa was sent to Warsaw and was captured by Swedes in 1655 (from the collection of Gripsholm Castle).
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