The palace was built between 1639-1642 by Lorenzo de Sent for the Grand Crown Chancellor Jerzy Ossoliński in Mannerist style. It was constructed on the plan of an elongated rectangle with two hexagonal towers at garden side of the building. The palace was crowned with a terrace with a balustrade, above which stood the upper part of the great representative hall, covered with a spherical roof. A possible inspiration for the palace's upper pavilion and its characteristic roof was Bonifaz Wohlmut's reconstruction of Queen Anne's Summer Palace in Prague, 1557-1563.
Adam Jarzębski, styling himself as Musician of His Highness Ladislaus IV and manager of the construction of the royal palace at Ujazdów, in his "Short Description of Warsaw" (The Main Road, or a Short Description of Warsaw) from 1643, described the residence of Jerzy Ossoliński:
Facade with statues of four kings, below inscriptions and a brass statue of Poland holding a sickle, with a plow and a sheaf and marble portal (2427-2435), in the middle of a building a hall covered with roof tiles with gilded brass statues in the corners (2445-2450),
Elongated outbuilding with servant lodgings and a kitchen (2711-2713), stables building opposit with a gate (2720-2725),
Vestibule with marble portals and iron doors of master craftsmanship (2505-2508), and a staircase with a grille and a large, solid lock (2520-2525),
Large dining room (2465) with niches with statues of white marble and a brass statue of a Cupid holding a bow above the door, chandelier and tapestries (2475-2485), with a door to a wine cellar (2491) and a room with silver and gold tableware (2495-2496),
Hall with upper windows and a fireplace of black highly polished marble with equestrian portrait of king Ladislaus IV Vasa on white horse against a battle scene (2527-2538), a row of family portraits by painter Hans (?) Amman, and paintings reproducing the epic tales of the ancestors, including a story of a knight wounded during a jousting tournament who was healed by Saint Anne, other stories and battle scenes, above busts of Roman Emperors of white marble (2553-2570), stucco trees in corners, most probably by Giovanni Battista Falconi, ceiling decorated with figures, animals and floral motifs and a painting depicting coronation of Queen Cecilia Renata of Austria in presence of chancellor Ossoliński, door portals of black marble with portiere tapestries with Topór (the Axe) coat of arms (2575-2600), polished marble floor (2605-2607),
Lord's chambers with tapestries, French-style parade bed, tables with gold trinkets and silverware and decorative clocks beside the bed, coffers, fireplace adorned with a mosaic (2611-2632),
Cabinet of curiosities in a right side tower with bronze statues of different horses, birds and people (2635-2644), silver plated cupboard-cabinet with gold inscriptions describing the contents of each drawer (2649-2652), marble table with rarities on it (2659-2662),
Chapel in the left side tower with an altar with an exquisite painting, relics in glass vessels, offered by the Pope, silver coffer reliquary with bones bound by gold chains, wax miniatures, a table with a casket and a door to a staircase (2667-2692).
In 1633 Ossoliński was sent with a diplomatic mission to the Pope in Rome by newly elected monarch of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, Ladislaus IV Vasa. The King offered him the starostwo of Bydgoszcz, 60,000 zlotys, six horses, a saber (scimitar) worth 10,000 zlotys, five Brussels' tapestries making up the series of the Story of Moses commissioned by King Sigismund Augustus in the 1550s, three of which were given to the Pope, and a construction site in Warsaw.
An event from 1633 is also worth mentioning when Ossoliński, traveling to Rome via Veneto, fascinated by the beauty of one of the villas near Padua, ordered to immediately take its dimensions. He made his entry to Eternal City wearing a żupan, richly embroidered with gold, buttoned up with 20 large buttons with diamonds, gold sabre set with jewels valued at 20,000 Polish zlotys and mounting a Turkish stallion having golden horseshoes and a horse tack set with precious stones.
In 1638 a life-size statue was cast in brass by Gerdt Benning in Gdańsk according to the design by Georg Münch for then the vice-chancellor Jerzy Ossoliński, most probably to his Castle in Ossolin. It is possible that the same workshop created statues to his Warsaw's palace.
Contrary to the Crown Court Marshall Adam Kazanowski, who had a transsexual man at his court, the Chancellor Ossoliński kept a transsexual woman in his palace: "a boy who thinks he is a girl, and who also wears a dress: He imitates a girl quite well; especially in that, he is very eager of being cuddled", as recounted Jean Le Laboureur in his "Account of the voyage of the Queen of Poland", published in Paris in 1647 (p. 212).
An engraved effigy of the Chancellor by Willem Hondius from 1648 was created after a portrait by Bartholomäus Strobel. It is possible then that Strobel created more painting for Ossoliński, including for his Warsaw's residence.
In 1645 the chancellor commissioned the silver-ebony altar for the Chapel of Black Madonna of Częstochowa adorned with his coat of arms. The design was most probably by a Royal court artist Giovanni Battista Gisleni, while silver elements were created by the Royal goldsmith Johann Christian Bierpfaff in Warsaw in 1650.
The "Inventory of belongings spared from Swedes and escapes made on December 1, 1661 in Wiśnicz" in the Central Archives of Historical Records in Warsaw, lists some of the preserved paintings from Chancellor's rich collection inherited by his daughter Helena Tekla Ossolińska, wife of Aleksander Michał Lubomirski, owner of the Wiśnicz Castle. 30 paintings from Chancellor's collection in the inventory include the paintings by Raphael, Titian, Guido Reni, Guercino, Domenichino, Veronese, Ribera, Albrecht Dürer and Daniel Seghers. There were also there a painting of the Leda and a swan, a gift from the Emperor, a Cupid sharpening his bow, possibly a copy of the famous work by Parmigianino, acquired in Rome, a "large Blessed Virgin Mary, a wreath around her made of fruits, which the angels holds", most probably by duo of Rubens and Jan Brueghel, and a large canvas showing Chancellor's Entry into Rome in 1633.
Ossoliński died in his palace in Warsaw on August 9, 1650, at the age of 55. He was buried in the church of St. Joseph in Klimontów, which he built. His opulent palace in Warsaw was destroyed during the invasion of the Commonwealth by neighbouring countries, known as the Deluge (1655-1660).
Adam Jarzębski, styling himself as Musician of His Highness Ladislaus IV and manager of the construction of the royal palace at Ujazdów, in his "Short Description of Warsaw" (The Main Road, or a Short Description of Warsaw) from 1643, dedicated to his benefactor Crown Court Marshall Adam Kazanowski, thoroughly described the residence of this baroque celebrity.
Kazanowski gained prominence as a close friend and companion of crown prince Ladislaus Sigismund Vasa, who was elected monarch of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth from 1632 as Ladislaus IV. Together with his brother, Stanisław Kazanowski, Adam was raised with crown prince and accompanied him during his attempt to become a Russian Tsar, in the Khotyn war of 1621 and the 1624 to 1625 European voyage. A breakthrough event for Adam was when his elder brother Stanisław, favourite of crown prince, attacked with syphilis was expelled from the court for promiscuity in 1620. Zygmunt Kazanowski, father of both, had great hopes for the relationship of his older son and young Vasa. Faced with the threat of his imminent death, he persuaded the sick to recommend his younger brother to the prince. Both brothers were accused by Jerzy Ossoliński in his Memoirs of organizing "suspicious" amusements for young prince. When the crown prince became king, Adam was showered with gifts and new official titles.
In 1628, at the age of about 29, Kazanowski decided to get married. He chose Elżbieta Słuszczanka, a daughter of wealthy Castellan of Minsk, Aleksander Słuszko, for the future bride. The marriage meant for him not only a substantial dowry, but also valuable connections in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. Aleksander Słuszko dismissed the suitor, justifying the refusal with his daughter's young age, as Elżbieta was then only 9 years old. However, thanks to the intervention of the crown prince, Aleksander Słuszko changed his mind. The wedding took place in the spring of 1633, when Elżbieta has reached the legal age of 14. Adam, who also became the Grand Pantler of the Crown that year, gained 50,000 zlotys of dowry. In addition, the young couple received 20,000 zlotys from the king and the value of the gifts was estimated at 40,000 zlotys.
When crown prince Ladislaus Sigismund became an adolescent, his father Sigismund III Vasa bought him a wooden mansion of Andrzej Bobola at the Cracow Suburb Street in Warsaw. In 1628, shortly after his return from a journey to Western Europe, the prince ordered Constantino Tencalla a court architect to build him a new palace in the Italian style. Four yers later, in 1632, Ladislaus gave the palace to Kazanowski, which caused serious misunderstanding with his father, and a special Parliament committee was appointed to determine the circumstances behind this gesture. In 1637, Kazanowski enlarged the building, holding to Tencalla's original designs. The new structure was a large four-storied palace with a garden, enormous terrace, central courtyard, copper roofs and tower tops decorated with gilded crowns.
629 verses (1025-1654) of Jarzębski's work portray the lavish mannerist and early baroque palace constructed between 1628 and 1643 in the center of informal capital of the Commonwealth:
Large arsenal filled with cannons, muskets, excellent armors, tents and turkish garments, lances and spears arranged on the walls, field guns, matchlocks and a skin of a lioness (1057-1066),
Long gallery filled with paintings on both sides with nudes above the table, portraits of the King Ladislaus IV Vasa and his wife Cecilia Renata of Austria, painted Ad vivium and noble ladies, stone statue of Atlas supporting the armillary sphere on the table in the middle (1095-1108),
Small arbor room adjacent to gallery with a French window, columns, stone floor and a view of the river Vistula (1121-1127),
Dining room with windows on two storeys, a large chandelier with a clock showing hours, a balcony for musicians and Flemish tapestries woven with golden thread (1131-1153), chairs covered with gilded cordovan, plaques with coat of arms of the Lords and Marshals between windows in upper part and landscape paintings and cordovan in lower part, tile stove (1177-1187), window with a wine lift from basement, a large silver wine vessel of 150 litres on wheels in the shape of Bacchus wearing a wreath, sitting on a barrel and holding a goblet, several other barrels half the size of the main and a silver wine fountain in the middle of the room, silver ewers, pitchers and trays (1188-1214), the King and the Queen, envoys of Muscovy, of Emperor, of the King of Spain, of Turkey, of France and of Persia were entertained here (1162-1171),
Vaulted steam baths near the coach house with two chambers, hot stone, heating house, cold and hot water, copper bathtubs and white benches (1255-1272),
Room on upper floor covered with cordovan, with a fireplace, marble portals with gold inscriptions, statues in overdoor (1305-1318) and muskets on the walls (1323),
Rooms with paintings and tapestries: animalistic paintings and still-lifes with vegetables by master painters in the first, next room with staircase, seascapes and paintings of ships, casket regals, a harpsichord, a lute, a violin, cymbals, a viol and a harp and doors hung with portieres (1325-1343), next room with live animals, monkey on a chain, white parrot, singing birds in cages, still life paintings with fruits and wines, tapestries, a fireplace and a marble table (1349-1364),
Lord's bedroom with a table, a painting of Adam and Eve, a bed against tapestries, good paintings, a fireplace and marble floor, a folding bench with wheels (1381-1392), trellis giving to the chapel, altar with gilded grille and a window to the ladies' room (1365-1376),
Lord's study with a mirror, angels' statues holding candles, paintings, tapestries and polished marble floor (1407-1418),
Library with foreign books in different languages, khanjar daggers on the table, daggers set with turquoises, gold bowls and rock crystal vessels (1425-1431),
Lady's rooms, in one of them tortoiseshell caskets, pendant paintings, one with an old man with a sore eye, tapestries and looms (1437-1449), bedroom covered with goldcloth, a draped bed made of a rich fabric, mirror in silver frame above the table, the other in gold plated frame, automaton clock with a man, paintings in ebony frames, marble floor and marble table (1457-1469), a bedroom with a bed of green goldcloth with fringe and a portrait of mother of Her Majesty, Zofia Konstancja Zenowicz, in the next room in the corner of the palace a portrait of father of Her Majesty, Aleksander Słuszka, in his old age above the door, in both rooms marble fireplaces, tables covered with kilims and marble floors (1473-1495),
Treasury on the groundfloor, the first room filled with guns: bird shotguns, Turkish trench guns, carabins, muskets and Italian pistols, laid with gold and silver, tables covered with Persian kilims (1508-1520), treasury room with gilded stuff set with turquoises, eastern backswords, gold sabres, gold and gilded saddles and horse tacks, sable coats, large trays and ewers in boxes and antique treasures, snake skin and a turtle from India (1530-1561),
Belvedere room with grille with a view of a garden (1579-1582), wine basement with barrels of wine, mild, sweet and spicy (1590-1596), and a beer basement (1601), in the room above a workshop of Dutch painters (1603-1608), next a room with silverware (1612), and a room with hunting falcons (1613), marble pantry with venison, partridges (1641-1645) and a room of captive Muslim Tatar servants (1649-1651).
Three years later, in 1646, Jean Le Laboureur, a companion of the French Ambassador Extraordinaire to Poland, Renée du Bec-Crespin, comtesse de Guébriant, visited the palace and described it in his "Account of the voyage of the Queen of Poland", published in Paris in 1647. He devoted five pages of his book to the building:
Five or six large chambers and several smaller rooms, filled with silk and gold oriental fabrics, beds of gold fabric, cabinets of uncommon workmanship, tables with different items of gold, silver, amber and stones (p. 211).
Large room with marble floor, as the rest of the lodgings, with a large wine fountain, made of silver in the middle, large platform above the door for the musicians, table with 80 silver-gilt Italian style tazzas (four rows of twenty each) with dried fruit, large pears in sugar, oranges, lemons, melons (p. 213), buffet with extraordinary gold and silver vessels, including Bacchus "of a natural height" sitting on a silver barrel with gold wheels, rock crystal glasses with silver-gilt mountings, Elżbieta Słuszczanka was dancing here with her brother Bogusław Jerzy Słuszka, Court Treasurer of Lithuania and marquis Gonzaga Myszkowski with his wife (p. 214).
Kazanowski, struck by the sudden invasion of gout, welcomed the guests at the staircase of his palace carried in a litter (p. 210), accompanied by 300 armed guards, more than 50 pages dressed in yellow satin and short jackets of blue satin, his wife and her ladies (p. 211).
In one of the chambers Le Laboureur noted "two extraordinarily small female dwarfs who were standing up like a sentry, to guard two small dogs, who were not less dwarf in their species, for they are the size of a mice, and both were resting in a white basket little larger than the hand, on a pillow of perfumed satin", while the ladies of Elżbieta Słuszczanka had a transsexual man, a woman who behaved like a man, "for their entertainment" (p. 212). In 1643 Kazanowski also arranged a marriage of dwarfs, "an unheard wedding, full of laughter", according to Albrycht Stanisław Radziwiłł.
Following her visit, Kazanowski and his wife, sent to Madame de Guébriant some small amber cabinets and clocks set with diamonds (p. 212).
Little is known about artistic patronage of the Crown Court Marshall. Among confirmed artists at his court was certain Ezechiel Sykora, born in Litomysl in Czechia in 1622, who latinized his family name to Paritius. After Kazanowski's death in 1649 he left Warsaw and went to Silesia. As a żupnik (manager) of the Royal Salt Mines, he commissioned from Gdańsk engraver Willem Hondius in 1645 a series of views of the Wieliczka salt mine.
Kazanowski had also a book of friendship (album amicorum/Stammbuch), wich was in collection of Edward Rastawiecki in Warsaw in 1853. Small oblong book bind in crimson velvet had 125 parchment leaves and majority of contributions from the years of between 1624 and 1625 of his European journey and a few from 1627 to 1644, mainly of ambassadors of the Spanish Empire. During his stay in Brussels in 1624 with the crown prince he received from infanta Isabella Clara Eugenia a gold medallion set with precious stones on a gold chain. It is possible that he intentionally tried to emulate great validos of his time, Duke of Lerma or Count-Duke of Olivares.
Kazanowski died childless in 1649, leaving all his property to his wife Elżbieta. His opulent palace in Warsaw was destroyed during the invasion of the Commonwealth by neighbouring countries, known as the Deluge (1655-1660).
Before the invasion by neighbouring countries, known as the Deluge (1655-1660), Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth ranked among the wealthiest countries in Europe and its monarchs successfully competed with rulers of other nations as patron of arts.
Crown of Sigismund III Vasa
Work in progress.
Bronze busts of Sigismund III Vasa and Constance of Austria
Although the existence of royal busts is purely hypothetical and not confirmed by sources, the fashion for such antique sculptures, stemming from Italy and Imperial court in Prague and Vienna, udoubtedly found its reflection in the cosmopolitan court of the Vasas in Kraków and Warsaw. Bronze cartouche with coat of arms of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth from the Wawel Castle, a full plastic bronze cast that preserved to our days and commissioned by Sigismund III in about 1604 to adorn overdoor in the northern wing of the castle leading to the Senators' Staircase, confirms that the Vasa residences were filled with such items.
In 1624, the Bishop of Kraków, Marcin Szyszkowski, who titled himself "the most faithful servant of the House of Austria" and who together with Zygmunt Myszkowski brought the Queen Constance from Graz to Poland, sponsored a new architectural dome canopy over the reliquary of Saint Stanislaus in the Wawel Cathedral in the style of Roman baroque. It is the work of the royal architect Giovanni Battista Trevano, the same who rebuilt the Royal Castle in Warsaw, made of black and rose marble, gilt-bronze and wood, created in the years 1626-1629. Gilt bronze figures of the Evangelists and Patrons Saints of Poland, flanking the cupola over the canopy, were cast by Antonio Lagostini, active in Kraków from around 1624. In the year of completion of this work, the bishop also ordered a tomb monument for himself in the cathedral near the canopy. According to the letter from Marcin Szyszkowski to Andrzej Łukomski, a Canon of the Cracow Cathedral Chapter, of 20 January 1629, this was also commissioned from Trevano and Lagostini. The model for the cast bronze bust should be attributed to the sculptors related to Trevano, Andrea and Antonio Castelli, sculptors from Lugano, active in Kraków from about 1623.
If existed, the royal busts were undoubtedly made in gilded bronze, just as majority of the similar works preserved in many European countries and Bishop Szyszkowski's bust. The material and its frequent military reuse, would also explain why the works have not preserved, as in case of bronze garden statues of Ladislaus IV's garden of the Villa Regia Palace in Warsaw, which are confirmed in sources. The preserved bronze statue of King Sigismund III at the column, so-called Sigismund Column in Warsaw, was also initially gilded.
The reconstruction is based on royal portrait paintings with Spanish composition from the 1610s created by workshop of court painter Jakob Troschel, which were in the collection of the Germanisches Nationalmuseum in Nuremberg before World War II. Both effigies, possibly from dowry of Polish-Lithuanian Princess Anna Catherina Constance Vasa, are highly schematical and idealized, hence facial features are based on more realistic effigies of the royal pair created by other court painters.
Gilded bronze bust of King Sigismund III Vasa, mid-1610s to 1631. Hypothetical reconstruction by Marcin Latka ©. All rights reserved.
Gilded bronze bust of Queen Constance of Austria, mid-1610s to 1631. Hypothetical reconstruction by Marcin Latka ©. All rights reserved.
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Heraldic pendant of Anna Catherine Constance Vasa
Princess Anna Catherine Constance Vasa was born in Warsaw on August 7th, 1619. She was the only daughter of Sigismund III Vasa and his second wife Constance of Austria that survied the childhood and the youngest of royal pair's children.
Large Spanish style pendants, like the one described here, become less fashionable with the introduction of the French style in the mid-1630s, that prompted frontal brooches. The creation of the pendant could be then closed in the time span between mid-1620s and 1638 when Anna Catherine Constance came of age and came into possession of counties bestowed to her by the parliament. It was also probably in 1638 that Princess' portrait in red Spanish dress with two gold pendants was created (today in the Imperial castle in Nuremberg).
King Sigismund III, himself a talented goldsmith, possibly stood behind the compex emblematic program of this jewel, although it is also possible that it was created long after his death in 1632. Since 1637, a marriage was suggested between Anne Catherine Constance and Ferdinand Charles, Archduke of Austria, heir of Tyrol and nephew of Ferdinand II, Holy Roman Emperor. Frederick William, Elector of Brandenburg, and Gaston, Duke of Orléans (brother of King Louis XIII of France), were also candidates for her hand. A jewel stressing splendid dynastic connections and emphasizing vastness of territories ruled by the family would perfectly fit into the Princess' situation at that time. Several heraldic jewels were featured in the official portraits of Anna Catherine Constance's mother Constance of Austria.
Anna Catherine Constance's father Sigismund III Vasa was elected monarch of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, bi-federation of Poland and Lithuania ruled by a common monarch in real union, who was both King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania. Since Sigismund's crowning in 1592, Polish Vasas claimed themselves rightful hereditary rulers of Sweden, consequently ignoring Sigismund's dethronement of 1598 by the Swedish parliament.
Anna Catherine Constance finally married Philip William of Neuburg (1615-1690), in Warsaw on 8 June 1642. She brought a considerable dowry in jewels and cash, calculated at a total of 2 million thalers. The inventory of Princess' jewels preserved in the Czartoryski Library in Kraków summarizes their value to 443,289 1/3 hard thalers.
The heraldic pendant is listed 18th in the section Pendants: A diamond pendant with Figures of the late King Sigmunt and Constantia with crowns on their heads, in the middle ruby grain, and beneath white Eagle, at the bottom coat of arms of the Duchy of Lithuania, on the right hand Swedish and on the left hand Austrian; above this ruby grain a yellow Lion with open jaw, in the front two fangs holds Zygmunt and Constantia together, on the sides and on the bottom five carved round hanging diamonds, valued at 2,000 thalers.
It is hard to determine the degree of accuracy of the inventory both in terms of description of items as well as valuation. One "large diamond" in a ring was valued at 30,000 thalers and a ring with "coat of arms of Austria" was valued at only 40 thalers. Also traditionally the Queen was depited to the right and the King to the left, and not like in the description of the pendant, which finds confirmation in Sigismund and Constance's portraiture, as well as location of the royal stalls in the Cathedral of Saint John in Warsaw.
The inventory also includes:
A necklace of 22 parts, among which 11 with a diamond in a middle, 3 square cut, 3 triangle cut, and set with two pearls. Another 11 parts in which a Lion's head in the center having a pearl in its mouth, four diamonds and four pearls set around it. All with a pendant with sixty two cut diamonds, and on top of a Lion's head and six hanging pearls, a gift from the Queen to the Princess, valued at 80,000 thalers;
A pendant in which a Lion with three crowns in the shape of the Swedish coat of arms with twenty-six different diamonds, and three hanging pearls, valued at 150 thalers and
A pendant in which a white Eagle with a large ruby on the chest, three small ruby parts, and three large pearls, valued at 700 thalers.
The inventory also lists A white Eagle, having a coat of arms on his cheast at which two rubies, all set with diamonds, with three hanging pearls, valued at 1,200 thalers, which is most probably identical with "diamond eagle with rubies" of the House of Austria received in 1543 by Elizabeth of Austria (1526-1545) from Emperor Charles V on the occasion of her marriage with Sigismund II Augustus of Poland, and preserved in the treasury of the Munich Residence.
Among renowned jewellers of the Vasas in the first half of the 17th century, that could create the work, were Mikołaj Siedmiradzki (ca. 1550-1630) from Lviv in today's Ukraine, who was in service of Sigismund III since 1604, and who in turn employed in his workshop Mikołaj Pasternakowicz and Zygmunt Frączkiewicz. There were also Jean Barbier from Lorraine, active in Kraków from about 1605, who moved to Gdańsk in 1625 and Beniamin Lanier (d. 1630) from Vitry-le-François in north-eastern France, who was active in Kraków from 1606, both court jewellers of Sigismund III. Jakub Burnett from Edinburgh who settled in Lviv in the first half of the 17th century was employed by Ladislaus IV. Members of the family also commissioned jewels abroad, like Prince John Casimir Vasa who in 1643 paid 9000 florins for jewels to Samuel von Sorgen from Vienna and 189 florins "For diamond heart to Mr Jakub jeweller".
Anna Catherine Constance died childless in Cologne on 8 October 1651 and was buried in the church of the Jesuits in Düsseldorf. It is due to purely heraldic character of the jewel, high value of the material and new fashion for more simple jewels that the pendant was most probably melted down, possibly still in the 17th century.
Excerpt from Inventory of Jewels of Her Highness Duchess of Neuburg, Crown Princess of Poland (Spisanie Kleynotów Xiężney Iey Mości Neyburskiey, Królewney Polskiey) by Royal Chancery in Warsaw, 1645, Czartoryski Library in Kraków. Fragment describing Heraldic pendant of Anna Catherine Constance Vasa.
Heraldic pendant of Anna Catherine Constance Vasa, mid-1620s to 1638. Hypothetical reconstruction by Marcin Latka ©. All rights reserved.
Silver altar of Sigismund III Vasa
Work in progress.
Tapestries with Story of Odysseus
During his stay in Antwerp in 1624, the Crown Prince of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, Ladislaus Sigismund Vasa visited Peter Paul Rubens' workshop, admired Jan Brueghel the Elder's paintings and visited the famous art collection of Cornelis van der Geest. He also went to see the tapissierspand (Tapestry house), on the site of the current Bourla Theater, on September 24, 1624. We visited a house, writes Stefan Pac, in his diary where they sell beautiful and precious tapestries that are sent all over the world. A few days later, on October 5, 1624 Gaspard Nagodt, treasurer of the Prince of Poland, signed a contract with a Brussels' weaver Jacob Geubels the Younger for delivery of ten tapestries representing the Story of Odysseus (Ulysses) of six ells height each (Flemish ell was equal to about 70 cm or 27 inches), interwoven with gold and silver thread. The complete set comprised 594 ells and cost 19,008 florins. On October 12, 1624 another contract was signed for a series called "with greenery" i.e. verdure tapestries or "Landscapes and Bocages in fresco", for 9207 florins.
An Antwerp merchant, Jan Bierens, "agent and domestic of His Highness the Serene Prince Wladislaus Sigismundus, Prince of Poland and Sweden", oversaw the weaving of the tapestries of the Story of Odysseus and verdures that Geubels the Younger made in Brussels. A lawsuit brought by Geubels against Jan Bierens in December 1626 for payment, confirms that at least a part of the commissioned tapestries was ready by this date.
Notations in the archives reveal the existence of the prince's agents, such as mentioned Jan Bierens and Georges Deschamps or the Frenchman Mathieu Rouault. They had to satisfy Ladislaus Sigismund's creditors and ensure that everything was executed and sent to Poland.
Probably due to Prince's financial difficulties the whole set not executed till Geubels' death in 1629 and the commission was accomplished by an unknown workshop.
It is uncertain when the Story of Odysseus and verdure tapestries were dispatched from Antwerp and when they arrived in Poland. Ladislaus Sigismund, the newly elected monarch of the Commonwealth as Ladislaus IV, wanted to have them before his coronation on February 6, 1633 in Kraków.
By a notarial deed of January 12, 1632 we learn that Jan Bierens had received three chests containing approximately two hundred and fifty - three silver marcs from the hands of Francesco Gissa and Joannes Curius, one butler and the other secretary of Abbot Mikołaj Wojciech Gniewosz (d. 1654), Ambassador of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. The Antwerp merchant had given them two thousand three hundred and ten rixdales as a pledge and had promised to send the precious delivery to Gdańsk to the address of Abraham Pels.
In the letter from September 15, 1632 Ladislaus IV asked Christian IV of Denmark to release his tapestries from customs (Rkps Riqsarkivet, Polen A. I, 3).
According to François Mols, a number of tapestry cartoons by Jacob Jordaens with the date 1620 were sold at Antwerp in 1774. It is belived that these tapestries were inspired by knowledge of Primaticcio's lost frescoes of the same subject at Fontainebleau. A document from May 15, 1656 in the archives of Antwerp in which Jacob Geubels, son of Jacob Geubels the Younger, had undertaken to weave, tapestries representing the Story of Ulysses after cartoons by Jordaens, confirms that the series were made to his design.
Lavish tapestries "hang up in foreign style" among "golden Netherlandish arts" are mentioned in Adam Jarzębski's "Short Description of Warsaw" (The Main Road, or a Short Description of Warsaw) from 1643, as adorning Ladislaus IV's Palace Villa Regia in Warsaw (1950-1956).
The series was inherited by Ladislaus' brother John II Casimir, who took them to France after his abdication in 1668 and was sold on auction in Paris in 1673 to the agent of the Charles I Louis, Elector Palatine for 12,000 French pounds (position 728 of the inventory).
Tapestry with Odysseus threatening Circe by workshop of Jacob Geubels II after cartoon by Jacob Jordaens, 1624-1632, with coat of arms of the Crown Prince of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, Ladislaus Sigismund Vasa, the mark of the city of Brussels B B, weaver's monogram and signature IACO GEVBELS. Hypothetical reconstruction by Marcin Latka ©. All rights reserved.
Medieval collection of the Museum of Decorative Arts in Berlin holds three important treasures connected with Poland.
When in 1392, the city of Lublin received a trade privilege from king Ladislaus II Jagiello, it developed into a trade centre, handling a large portion of commerce between Poland and Lithuania. Under the rule of the Jagiellon dynasty the Lublin castle enjoyed royal favor and frequent stays by members of the royal family. Two gold brooches in Berlin are tokens of the city’s prosperity thereafter.
The first one with a lady hawking, adorned with enamel, and set with a sapphire and pearls is 7.5 cm in diameter (inventory number F 1364). It came through the Albert Figdor’s collection in Vienna into the possession of the Berlin museum. According to the catalogue of the Figdor’s collection, it was found in the ruins of the Konopnica castle near Lublin. This information is not very accurate, since there was no castle in Konopnica and the only old ruins in the village are those of a church campanile from 1781, although the document from 1428 confirms the existence of the Saint Catherine’s church there. It is possible that the jewel was lost or hidden by its owner in the church. This owner could be certain Jan Chmielowski, tenant of the village of Konopnica, whose bad management led to a peasant revolt between 1615 and 1616 and who died during this time. He is noted for his taste for Eastern garments and as owner of 10 stylish ferezja (overcoat of eastern origin lined with fur) valued from 12 to 30 zlotys. Such coat, as well as another very popular delia, was pinned together or adorned with a clasp or brooch and had decorative fastening by buttons. Around that time Florian Ważyński (d. 1617) had in his ferezja coat “two large pearl buttons” (dwa wielkie perłowe guzy).
The second brooch with a shield bearer is also adorned with enamel and set with gemstones and pearls, a height of 6.5 cm and a width of 4.5 cm (inventory number F 3515). It was discovered as part of a gold hoard in 1836 in Abramowice, now part of Lublin, by men working in the courtyard of a manor house there and was dispersed among them. The owner managed to retrieve a gold brooch, three gold rings, two buckles and some ducats of king Matthias Corvinus. The brooch was sold to Mrs Maria Strojnowska owner of Dominów near Lublin and later acquired by the Berlin museum.
The first mention about the manor house in Abramowice comes from the Liber beneficiorum of Jan Długosz from 1393 and tells about the owner of the knight's farm - Sieciech (Sethegius), and then - Andrzej and Jan Klimuntowski of the Topór coat of arms. At the end of the 15th century, Abramowice belonged to Jan Ossoliński, who pledged his property for 250 Hungarian florins to the Lublin judge Mikołaj Pszonka, one of the founders of the Babin Republic. The current manor was built in 1790 for Ewa née Gałęzowska and her husband Stanisław Kossowski.
A note in Liber colloquiorum from 1447, that Mikołaj Michałowski, castellan of Kraków had moniliorum alias clasp et torqvis alias pendant with pearls (moniliorum alias zaponicze et torqvis alias noszenye de margaritis) of 700 florins worth, and the inventory of the state jewels from July 1607, which lists a clasp with a ruby rose adorned with pearls and other jewels, 9 different diamond clasps with Saint George, one with king David holding Goliath’s head and a clasp with Vulcan made of white enamel sitting on a three-facet cut diamond, confirms the taste for exquisite jewels in Poland from the medieval times.
Stylistically and due to technique of encrusted enamel used to decorate both brooches, they should be attributed to French or Burgundian workshops, although it cannot be excluded that at least one of them was produced locally.
Gold enamelled and gem-set brooch with a lady hawking found in Konopnica near Lublin by Anonymous from Burgundy or Paris, early 15th century, Museum of Decorative Arts in Berlin.
Gold gem-set brooch with a shield bearer found in Abramowice near Lublin by Anonymous, early 15th century, Museum of Decorative Arts in Berlin.
Detail of Annunciation, right outer panel of Crucifixion Triptych of the canon Peter von Wartenberg (Piotr z Sycowa) by Wilhelm Kalteysen, 1468, National Museum in Warsaw.
Brooch from the coronation mantle with a woman giving birth, fragment of tomb monument of King Casimir IV Jagiellon by Veit Stoss and Jörg Huber in Kraków, 1492-1496, Wawel Cathedral.
Detail of portrait of Prince Ladislaus Sigismund Vasa in Polish costume by circle of Peter Paul Rubens, 1620s, Pitti Palace in Florence.
Detail of portrait of Jakub Sobieski by Anonymous, ca. 1643, Lviv National Art Gallery.
The reliquary holding a capsule for the presentation of the relic in its pedestal with Saint George fighting the dragon is one of two similar vessels from Elbląg in Prussia, the city which come under the sovereignty of the Polish crown in 1454. Both containers were created in the third quarter of the 15th century, most probably around the year of 1475. The one in Berlin was found in a niche of the church of Saint George in Elbląg, where it had been walled in 1564 or in about 1520. It was discovered in 1652 and then given to the Epiphany church in Elbląg. In 1773 the superior of this church, Christian Gottlieb Wulff, acquired the reliquary for the sum of 55 thalers. In 1876 it was cleaned and restored by Elbląg’s goldsmith Emil Höpner for the current owner Ferdynand Kamiński, the court councilor of Elbląg. Two years later, in 1878, the vessel was offered by Albert Katz from Zgorzelec to the Berlin museum (inventory number 1878,618). Saint George on a base, holding a Hungarian-Turkish type sword, is 30.5 cm high and weighs 957 g. The second, similar container, today in Hamburg, was commissioned by the St. George’s Brotherhood in Elbląg for this saint's altar in Saint Nicholas church in Elbląg. In the second quarter of the 16th century it was put into storage in the City hall and discovered there in 1773 in the basement. Then sold on auction, it returned to the St. George’s Brotherhood in 1811 where it was kept untill 1945. In 1950 the second reliquary was given by Philipp F. Reemts to the Hamburg Museum of Art and Design (inventory number 1950.31). The Hamburg vessel is larger with 46 cm high and weighs 2370 g and is adorned coral, amethysts and rubies.
Just as later reliquary of Saint George created for the Brotherhood of Blackheads in Riga in 1507, the containers from Elbląg are attributed to the workshop of Bernt Notke in Lübeck or Israhel van Meckenem, whose print from mid-15th century could be a model for Elbląg works, although it cannot be excluded that all of them were created by local workshops.
Silver-gilt St. George's reliquary from Elbląg by Anonymous (Bernt Notke in Lübeck?), ca. 1475, Museum of Decorative Arts in Berlin.
Fragment of silver-gilt St. George's reliquary from Elbląg by Anonymous (Bernt Notke in Lübeck?), ca. 1475, Museum of Decorative Arts in Berlin.
Silver-gilt St. George's reliquary from Elbląg by Anonymous (Bernt Notke in Lübeck?), ca. 1480, Museum of Art and Design in Hamburg.
On June 17th, 1696 died in the Wilanów Palace in Warsaw after 20 years reign, John III Sobieski, elected monarch of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Shortly after king’s death an inventory of his belongings in the palace was opened. The document contains 122 positions of exquisite silverware, some of which could be created for 20th anniversary of king’s coronation on February 20th, 1696. In the part of royal treasury supervised by burgrave Brochocki, there was "a silver pyramid with 11 baskets made in Augsburg (No. 9.)", "a silver bowl made in Augsburg with a cover with phoenix (No. 4.)", "a three storey fountain with gilded elements made in Augsburg (No. 8.)" and "partially gilded service made in Augsburg with salt cellars, trays, vinegar cruets, bowls and Hercules in the center (No. 7.)". According to inventory the latter service had total weight of 56 grzywnas and 12 łuty, while the Kraków grzywna, used in Poland after 1650 weighed 201.86 g, therefore total weight of the service was approximately 11,304.16 g. Similar vessel from the Green Vault in Dresden (inventory number IV 292), created in 1617 in Nuremberg by Heinrich Mack and Johann Hauer, meaure 75 cm with 4686 g weight.
The inventory also lists some gifts from foreign monarchs including gold bowl offered by Elector of Brandenburg (till 1657 a fief of the Commonwealth as Duke of Prussia) - “gold bowl in the shape of a shell presented by Elector of Brandenburg with his coat of arms” 894 red zlotys worth, inherited by prince Aleksander Benedykt Sobieski.
On March 24th, 1712 arrived to Berlin, a capital of newly created Kingdom of Prussia (earlier Brandenburg), an envoy of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and Saxony, count Jacob Heinrich von Flemming. His mission was to negotiate alliance against Sweden (diplomatic credentials for Flemming, Dresden March 17, 1712 [O. S. A. Rep. XI: 247 ii Fe. 55]). Both Prussia and Sweden, growing military powers in the region, pose a significant threat to the Commonwealth. Prussia claimed Courland, a vassal Duchy of the Commonwealth, Varmia and Elbląg, while Swedes were even more perilous for elected successor of John III Sobieski, Augustus II the Saxon, called the Strong, as they supported Stanislaus Leszczyński, a candidate to Commonwealth’s crown and Augustus’ rival. The king was prepared to make far-going territorial concessions to alleviate Prussia and the envoy undoubtedly has not arrived barehanded. It is possible then that Augustus has sent from Warsaw a part or whole silver service made for Sobieski, as a gift.
Table centerpiece with Hercules carrying the terrestrial globe and royal eagle in the Köpenick Palace, a branch of Museum of Decorative Arts in Berlin (inventory number S 559), is probably the largest and the only preserved part of the mentioned service. It measures 80 cm and bears hallmark of the city of Augsburg as well as master mark LB with a star.
Stylistically the work should be attributed to Lorenz II Biller (active between 1678-1726) and dated to 1680s. The work was signed in the center of the celestial globe in Latin: Christoph Schmidt fecit Augustae 1696. Schmidt most probably modified the work by Biller’s workshop, acquired by some important patron that year, John III Sobieski. The statue also bears the date: 17 M 12 [March 1712?] at the bottom of the base on the right, possibly an inventory date. Later the centerpiece was included in the so-called great silver buffet in the Berlin City Castle. Two similar vessels are visible in the drawing from the end of the 18th century, depicting the composition of the silver buffet in about 1763 and are not visible in original composition of the buffet by Johann Friedrich Eosander from 1708. The centerpiece was therefore included in the composition between 1708 and 1763, which makes Polish provenience even more accurate.
Table centerpiece with Hercules carrying the terrestrial globe and royal eagle by Lorenz Biller II and Christoph Schmidt in Augsburg, ca. 1685 and 1696, Museum of Decorative Arts in Berlin.
Fragment of table centerpiece with Hercules carrying the terrestrial globe and royal eagle by Lorenz Biller II and Christoph Schmidt in Augsburg, ca. 1685 and 1696, Museum of Decorative Arts in Berlin.
Banquet given by John III Sobieski to foreign diplomats and Polish dignitaries at Jaworów on 6 July 1684 by Frans Geffels, ca. 1685, National Museum in Wrocław.
Silver buffet in the Berlin City Castle by Martin Engelbrecht, circa 1708, engraving published in Theatrum Europaeum, Volume XVI, 1717, private collection.
See the work in Polish-Lithuanian Treasures.
On November 11th, 1781 king Stanislaus Augustus Poniatowski (1732-1798), the last elected monarch of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, entered triumphally the city of Kamianets-Podilskyi, at that time part of the Polish south-eastern borderlands protection system, accompanied by prince Adam Czartoryski and voivode Józef Stępkowski. The king was greeted by general Jan de Witte, commander of the fortress.
Stanislaus Augustus arrived to Volhynia and Podolia to meet crown prince Paul of Russia (1754-1801) and his wife Natalia Alexeievna (1755-1776) who were traveling incognito as the comte et comtesse du Nord (the Count and Countess of the North) through western Europe and took this opportunity to inspect the most important fortresses. During his five-day sojourn in Kamianets the king visited the churches and the old fortress, as well as nearby Zhvanets and Khotyn.
One of the most important souvenir of this travel are two portraits from the collection of the National Museum in Warsaw of two Jewish women from Zhvanets. According to inscription in Polish on both of them they were commissioned by the king on November 14th, 1781 and painted by Krzysztof Radziwiłłowski - Roku 1781 dnia 14 listopada z rozkazu Najjaśniejszego pana Króla J Mości, zwiedzajacego brzegi Dniestru w Żwańcu, przedstawiona Chajka Córka kupca Abramka Lwowskim zwanego, tym portretem odmalowana przez urodzonego Krzysztofa Radziwiłłowskiego. The inscription gives the name of one of the women - Chajka (Polish spelling Hayka), the daughter of the merchant Abramek Lwowski (of Lviv). Both portraits were included in the royal collection in Warsaw as Portrait of Jewish woman Czayka (Portrait de la juive Czayka) and Portrait of Jewish woman Elia (Portrait de la juive Elia).
Splendid half-length portraits of two women, one married having her hair covered and one unmarried, most probably mother and daughter, rank among the oldest preserved effigies of Jewish people from the territory of the former Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. King’s romantic affection towards one or both women is sometimes cited as reason for creation of portraits, however there is no clear evidence of this. Although Stanislaus Augustus was famous for his short-lived romances and his chamberlain’s palace in Warsaw, the notorious Rabbit-House (Królikarnia), was described as “high-class brothel” where the king was entertained by the most beautiful women, it is also possible that he was impressed by both women or their attire, thus wanted to preserve this impression.
The women wore their best clothes and jewels for so historic an occasion as king’s visit in their town. The amount of rare gold medals, pearls and other jewels, quite out of fashion at that time, worn by them was unusual for visitors from cosmopolitan capital of the Commonwealth at the end of Enlightenment. The younger woman wears a necklace made entirely of large gold medals and coins, one of which is most probably gold coronation medal of John III Sobieski and Marie Casimire from 1676 and gold earrings, while the older wears four pearl necklaces with two large gold medals, diamond earrings, diamond necklace and a bonnet adorned with pearls.
Both portraits constitute an unprecedented document of great prosperity of the Jewish community in the Commonwealth shortly before it was finally dismantled by the Second and Third Partition (1793-1795).
Portrait of Chajka, Jewish woman from Zhvanets by Krzysztof Radziwiłłowski, 1781, National Museum in Warsaw.
Portrait of Elia, Jewish woman from Zhvanets by Krzysztof Radziwiłłowski, 1781, National Museum in Warsaw.
Detail of portrait of Chajka, Jewish woman from Zhvanets by Krzysztof Radziwiłłowski, 1781, National Museum in Warsaw.
Detail of portrait of Elia, Jewish woman from Zhvanets by Krzysztof Radziwiłłowski, 1781, National Museum in Warsaw. Depicted with, most likely, gold coronation medal of John III Sobieski and Marie Casimire on her necklace. Identification by Marcin Latka.
Gold coronation medal of 15 ducats worth of John III Sobieski and Marie Casimire by Johann Höhn, 1676, Private collection.
Portrait of Stanislaus Augustus Poniatowski in dressing gown by Giovanni Battista Lampi, 1788-1789, National Museum in Warsaw.
At the beginning of January 1606 arrived to Kraków Jan Buczynski, secretary of tsar False Dmitry I of Russia, with the mission to acquire jewels for his patron. Several merchants from Kraków and Lviv, as well as jewellers Mikołaj Siedmiradzki and Giovanni Ambrogio Cellari from Milan, encouraged by the prospect of a large gain, embarked on a journey to Moscow.
Princess Anna Vasa (1568-1625) who owned a collection of jewels valued by some at 200,000 thalers, decided also to secretly sell to the tsar a part of it. Stanisław Niemojewski (ca. 1560-1620) of Rola coat of arms, Crown Deputy Master of the Pantry, was appointed to deliver jewels worth of 70,000 zlotys "wrapped in colourful silk" in an iron casked "painted in green". False Dmitry was killed on May 17th, 1606 and it was not as early as 1609 when the collection was returned by the new tsar Vasiliy Ivanovich Shuisky. Among jewels returned was "eagle with two diamond heads with rubies", most probably from princess' collection or pawned with Niemojewski from the State Treasury before 1599.
Such hereldic jewels, either Imperial-Austrian or Polish, were undobtedly in possesion of different queens and princesses of Poland since at least 1543, when Elizabeth of Austria (1526-1545) was presented with a "diamond eagle with rubies" by emperor Charles V on the occasion of her marriage with king Sigismund II Augustus of Poland. Inventory of the jewels of Polish princess Anna Catherine Constance Vasa, daughter of Sigismund III and Constance of Austria, include four pendans and two pair of earrings with eagles, unfailingly three Imperial-Austrian and two Polish: "a pendant with a white, enamelled Eagle, at which seven diamonds, three round pearls and one big hanging ", valued at 120 thalers and "a diamond eagle with a sharply cut diamond in the center, more diamonds around and three hanging pearls".
Anna Vasa, in half a princess of Poland, as a daughter of Catherine Jagiellon and sister of king Sigismund III, was as such entitled to use this emblem. After Sigismund's defeat at the Battle of Stångebro in 1598, she left Sweden to live with him in Poland where she spent the rest of her life.
The miniature portrait of a lady with eagle pendant from Harrach collection in Vienna (Harrach Palace at Freyung Street) previously identified as effigy of Anna of Austria (1573-1598), first wife of king Sigismund III, basing on strong resemblance to portrait of Catherine Jagiellon, if at all connected with Poland, should be rather identified as a portrait of king’s sister Anna Vasa, and not as his wife. The lack of protruding lip, notorious "Habsburg jaw" known from Anna of Austria’s preserved portraits and costume of the sitter, according to Northern fashion and not Spanish of the Imperial court, confirms this hypothesis.
Eagle was a symbol of supreme imperial power, epitomized magnanimity, the Ascension to heaven and regeneration by baptism and was used in jewellery all across Europe at that time. If the pendant is a heraldic symbol than the portrait should be dated to about 1592, when Sigismund was prepared to abandon the Polish throne for Ernest of Austria, who was about to marry princess Anna Vasa (this would also explain how the miniature found its way to Austria) or to 1598, when the princess needed to legitimize herself in her new homeland.
Diamond double-headed eagle of the House of Austria by Anonymous from Milan or Vienna, mid-16th century, Treasury of the Munich Residence. Most probably from dowry of princess Anna Catherine Constance Vasa.
Detail of a portrait of queen Anna of Austria (1573-1598) by Martin Kober, 1595, Bavarian State Painting Collections.
Miniature of princess Catherine Jagiellon (1526-1583) by workshop of Lucas Cranach the Younger, ca. 1553, Czartoryski Museum.
Miniature of a lady with eagle pendant, most probably princess Anna Vasa (1568-1625) by Anonymous, 1590s, Harrach collection in Rohrau castle. Identification by Marcin Latka.
See the work in Polish-Lithuanian Treasures.
The Museum of Decorative Arts (Kunstgewerbemuseum) in Berlin prides itself on its collection of over 40 cm high nautilus cup made by the royal goldsmith Andreas I Mackensen (inventory number 1993.63). The cephalopod shell is decorated with a engraved images of insects and bats and mounted in a silver, gilt frame with sea elements - the bowl is supported by Triton, the frame is in the form of sirens and sea waves, and the cover is decorated with a putto gliding on a sea monster. At the base of the cover there is the owner's coat of arms, Aleksander Kęsowski, abbot of the Oliwa Abbey, a six-petal rose and initials A / K / A / O (ALEXANDER / KENSOWSKI / ABBAS / OLIVAE). Kęsowski, born in Kąsów in Kuyavia in 1590, became the abbot in 1641, after the death of Michał Konarski. He was a good manager and founder of many sacred buildings and a hospital of St. Lazarus in Oliwa.
The richness of the Oliwa Abbey during Kęsowski's tenure is evidenced by the account of a gift offered to King John Casimir Vasa and Queen Marie Louise Gonzaga on the occasion of their visit to Gdańsk in 1651. The abbot invited the king to dinner and during this visit he "offered to His Majesty the King the amber clock, very expensive and high, for which he gave in Gdańsk three thousand zlotys [...] to Her Majesty the Queen he offered the amber casket, very beautiful, though small", confirms the royal courtier, Jakub Michałowski, in his diary of the "Prussian Journey". "So we left Oliwa on Wednesday after dinner, accompanied along the way for some time by this abbot [Aleksander Kęsowski], who bid us farewell with good wine with a chalice in his hand" - wrote in his "Diary of travel across Europe" from 1652 Giacomo Fantuzzi, an official of the Apostolic Nunciature in Warsaw, who after seven years in Poland returned to his native Italy via Gdańsk. Earlier on, he noted in his report that here "the dining table is very important and it is very expensive, because in Poland they live sumptuously and they give expensive parties".
The cup was probably made in Gdańsk and could be a gift from the king or, more likely, was ordered by the abbot himself. It is possible to set the date of its creation in the interval between 1643, when Mackensen came from Kraków to Gdańsk, and 1667, the date of Kęsowski's death. At the beginning of the 20th century it was owned by count Friedrich Schaffgotsch in Cieplice, after World War II it belonged to Udo and Mania Bey in Hamburg, and in 1993 it was acquired by the Museum of Decorative Arts from Galerie Neuse in Bremen.
Nautilus cup with coat of arms of abbot Aleksander Kęsowski by Andreas I Mackensen, 1643-1667, Museum of Decorative Arts in Berlin.
Detail of nautilus cup with coat of arms of abbot Aleksander Kęsowski by Andreas I Mackensen, 1643-1667, Museum of Decorative Arts in Berlin.
Detail of nautilus cup with coat of arms of abbot Aleksander Kęsowski by Andreas I Mackensen, 1643-1667, Museum of Decorative Arts in Berlin.
Abbot Aleksander Kęsowski in Paweł Mirowski's "Kazanie na pogrzebie zacnego młodziana Jego Mości Pana Jana Bauzendorffa z Kęsowa Kęsowskiego ..." by Anonymous from Gdańsk, 1656, National Library in Warsaw.
Coat of arms of abbot Aleksander Kęsowski in Stefan Damalewicz's "Roza z opatrznośći Boskiey nową szatą odźiana, abo kazanie przy poświącaniu przewielebnego w Chrystusie Oyca, I. M. X. Alexandra Bucendorfa Kęssowskiego ..." by Cezary Franciszek in Kraków, 1642, National Library in Warsaw.
When in 1598 died queen Anna of Austria, first wife of Sigismund III Vasa, a young a chamberlain of the queen's court and governess to the king's children, Urszula Meyerin, took her position not only in the king's bed but also at the court and in country's politics. This seven-year period between first and second marriage of the king, marked by increasing role of his mistress and "a minister in a skirt" as she was called, is most probably reflected in the reliquary of Saint Ursula in the Diocesan Museum in Płock.
Before 1601 king Sigismund III ordered a goldsmith of Płock, Stanisław Zemelka, to adorn a reliquary bust of his patron Saint Sigismund in the Płock Cathedral with a gold crown from his treasury. Around the same year the king's close ally and protégé, Wojciech Baranowski, Bishop of Płock, commissioned in the workshop of royal goldsmith a silver bust for relics of Saint Ursula from the Płock Cathedral, which was to be transferred to newly established Jesuit Collegium in Pułtusk. Urszula Meyerin, a supporter of Jesuits who corresponded with the Pope and used her influence on the king to appoint her favourites to state positions, deserved the honor to give her effigy to the virgin martyr Ursula, which would be another reason for king's gratitude towards Baranowski. It is also possible that the king, himself a talented goldsmith, participated in execution of this commission, hence the lack of signature on the work.
Silver reliquary of Saint Sigismund with gold Płock Diadem by Anonymous from Kraków (reliquary) and Anonymous from Hungary or Germany (diadem), second quarter of 13th century and 1370, Diocesan Museum in Płock.
Silver reliquary of Saint Ursula in the form of a bust by Stanisław Ditrich, ca. 1600, Diocesan Museum in Płock.
In 1637, when 42-years-old king Ladislaus IV Vasa decided to marry finally, the situation at the court of his mistress Jadwiga Łuszkowska become difficult. It was probably thanks to efforts of king's wife, imperial daughter, Cecilia Renata of Austria, that Jadwiga was married to Jan Wypyski, starost of Merkinė in Lithuania and left the court in Warsaw. Portrait of a lady with forget-me-nots from Warsaw's National Museum, painted around that time in the style of royal painter, Peter Danckerts de Rij, which depicts a lady in the costume of a married woman from Central Europe holding forget-me-nots, symbolizing true love, might be a portrait of Łuszkowska.
Portrait of a lady with forget-me-nots (possibly Jadwiga Wypyska née Łuszkowska) by circle of Peter Danckerts de Rij, ca. 1640, National Museum in Warsaw.
Portrait of Prince Sigismund Casimir Vasa with a page (possibly illegitimate son of Łuszkowska and Ladislaus IV - Ladislaus Constantine Vasa, future Count of Wasenau) by Peter Danckerts de Rij, ca. 1647, National Gallery in Prague.
Around 1659, when the great war, known is Polish history as the Deluge, was coming to the end, it become obvious to everybody that 48-years-old queen Marie Louise Gonzaga would not give a birth to a child, everybody at the court in Warsaw were thinking on possible heir to the throne. Powerful queen gave birth to a son in 1652, but the child died after a month. The old king John Casimir Vasa, former cardinal, who finding himself unsuited to ecclesiastical life, stood in elections for the Polish throne after death of his brother and married his sister-in-law, had however at least one illegitimate child, a daughter Marie Catherine, and possibly a son.
The painting offered by queen Marie Louise to the Church of the Holy Cross in Warsaw in about 1667 and created by court artist around 1659, depicts the eldest son of king’s mistress Katarzyna Franciszka (Catherine Frances) Denhoffowa. 10 years old John Casimir Denhoff as young Jesus, held by childless queen Marie Louise depicted as Virgin Mary, is offering a ring to his mother in the costume of Saint Catherine.
Katarzyna Franciszka Denhoffowa nee von Bessen (or von Bees) from Olesno in Silesia and her younger sister Anna Zuzanna were maids of honor of queen Cecilia Renata and stayed at the court after queen’s death. Denhoffowa become a trusted maid of a new queen and her second husband John Casimir. In 1648, she married a courtier of John Casimir, Teodor Denhoff, and a year later on June 6, 1649 she gave birth to John Casimir Denhoff, future cardinal. Godparents of the young Denhoff were none other than king and queen herself. In 1666 at the age of 17 he was made abbot of Mogiła Abbey and between 1670 and 1674 he studied canon law in Paris under protection of John Casimir Vasa.
Mystical marriage of Saint Catherine by circle of Peter Danckerts de Rij, ca. 1659, National Museum in Warsaw.
Portrait of king John II Casimir Vasa by Daniel Schultz, 1659, Royal Baths Museum in Warsaw.
Portrait of cardinal John Casimir Denhoff by circle of Giovanni Maria Morandi, after 1687, Private collection.
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