In 1530, the nine-year-old Sigismund Augustus, son of Sigismund I the Old and his second wife Bona Sforza was crowned as co-ruler of Poland-Lithuania alongside his father. That same year he was also engaged with his four-year-old cousin Elizabeth of Austria, daughter of Anna Jagellonica, Queen of Germany, Bohemia, and Hungary. On 5 May 1543 then 16-year-old Elizabeth married 22-year-old Sigismund Augustus. The king, who already had several mistresses, did not find Elizabeth attractive and continued to have extramarital affairs.
In the course of the year 1545, on June 15th, the young queen Elizabeth died of an epileptic seizure in Vilnius. Her body filled with lime was awaiting the king's arrival from Kraków on July 24, over one month after her death. On August 25, 1545 the body of Elizabeth was buried in Saint Casimir Chapel of the Vilnius Cathedral. After half a year, on January 9, 1546, in Kraków, Seweryn Boner, the commissioner of Sigismund Augustus, signed a contract with the sculptor Giovanni Maria Mosca called Padovano, to create a tombstone for Elizabeth. Padovano, born in Padua and summoned to Sigismund I's court in 1529, became the main sculptor in Kraków after the tragic death of Bartolommeo Berrecci, murdered in 1537 by another jealous Italian artist. He created several tombstones for Vilnius Cathedral, including most probably tombstone for Vytautas the Great, commissioned by Bona Sforza. As early as 1546 Padovano undertook, together with Giovanni Cini, to create the tombstone for Elizabeth.
Sometime in 1547, in spite of his mother's disapproval, Sigismund Augustus secretly wed his mistress Barbara Radziwill, she died however on 8 May 1551 in Kraków, five months after long battled coronation, of syphilis, cancer or poisoned by Bona. Barbara asked to be buried in Vilnius and her body was transported to Vilnius Cathedral, where she was buried on 23 June next to Sigismund Augustus' first wife. One of her state portraits (a copy in the Royal Castle in Warsaw, inventory R-ZKW-161), which was probaly used as model for the tomb monument, reflects her great love for precious stones and pearls. She was depicted in a traditional wimple of a married woman covered with pearls and gold-diamond brooches, gold-diamond pendant on a gold chain with a large pearl, comparable with famous La Peregrina or the Tudor pearl, and another gold chain with a precious stone cameo with a bust of her husband, most probably created by Jacopo Caraglio, court goldsmith and medallist of Sigismund Augustus.
In January 1552, Jan Lutomierski, royal court treasurer, ordered 8 blocks of red "marble" (Adnet limestone) in Salzburg from Rupert Beyr (pro sepulchro Ser. olim Dominae D. Reginae Barbarae marmores octo iuxta ...), together with one block for the monument of Bishop Samuel Maciejowski in the Wawel Cathedral. The marble was transported to Kraków, from where, after preliminary processing, the blocks were floated down the Vistula to Gdańsk and Königsberg, then up the Nemunas and Neris rivers to the capital of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania covering a total of over 1,500 km. On June 24, 1552 the tomb monument of Queen Elizabeth, created in Kraków, was brought to Vilnius and put in storage in the Franciscan monastery, and on April 18, 1553, Lutomierski signed a contract with Padovano with an advance payment of 280 florins for execution of the monument to Queen Barbara (convenit cum Joanne Maria, Italo lapicida, de labore sepulchri Ser. olim D.D. Barbarae ...). The main sculptural work Padovano performed together with Giovanni Cini on site, in Vilnius. The final bill of 971 florins and 13 groszy for the monuments to both queens was issued in 1562 (In sepulchrum et marmores Serenissimarum Elizabethae et Barbarae Reginarum).
Similar to Maciejowski's monument, created by Padovano in 1552, the royal tombs in the form of arcosolium (an arched recess), undoubtedly portrayed the deceased queens' in the fashionable "Sansovino pose", referring to the statues of Roman courtesans of the Flavian era, sleeping above the sarcophagus and turned towards the viewer. It was a revival of the Etruscan models, as opposed to the traditional medieval model which saw the deceased lying in a more rigid way and celebrating a dead person, in favor of a new conception exalting the living person. The works inspired later realisations, like monument to Barbara Tarnowska in Tarnów from the 1550s, monument to Elżbieta Zebrzydowska in Kielce, created by Padovano after 1553, monument to Urszula Leżeńska by Jan Michałowicz of Urzędów in Brzeziny, created between 1563-1568 or monument to Barbara Górka by Girolamo Canavesi in Poznań, executed after 1574.
In the last years of his reign Sigismund Augustus decided to built in the Vilnius Lower Castle, on the site of the former medieval chapel of St. Anne, destroyed by a fire in 1530, the new church of St. Anne and St. Barbara as a mausoleum for his wives. The coffins of the two queens were to be stored in Vilnius Cathedral, only until the construction of the church would be accomplished, which the monarch expressed in his last will:
The testament of His Majesty Sigismund Augustus, who died in Knyszyn on July VIIth of the year from the Nativity of Our Lord MDLXXII (Library of the Kórnik Castle, copy of the Puławy manuscript by Kielisiński)
[...] The bodies of deceased Ladies our Spouses, dead in Our Lord, we want them to be from the Chapel of St. Casimir, where they are put in depository, in this church of St. Anne to be transferred and buried there. The body Her Majesty Halska [Elizabeth] on the right side of the Church by the altar on the side of choir in the corner of the Church. And the Queen Her Majesty Barbara also from this side of the choir in the corner of the Church on the left side.
[...] For all this benevolence to Her Majesties our Sisters, often mentioned, the Church of St. Anne, aforementioned and begun by us [...] and as it is acceptable according to custom, if we will be buried there, to built a grave on the aforementioned site worthy our state. Also to Queen Her Majesty Halska [Elizabeth] to erect a grave, which is ready at Jop's. Also to Queen Her Majesty Barbara, after moving their bodies, to erect a grave on the above-described places.
Sigismund II Augustus died childless on 7 July 1572 in Knyszyn. The Union of Lublin signed on 1 July 1569 created a single state, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, a republic of nobles with elective monarchy. On 15 December 1575 Sigismund Augustus' sister Anna Jagiellon was elected as co-ruler of the Commonwealth, together with her husband Stephen Báthory.
The king's sisters were reluctant to fullfill his last will concerning the burial of his wives. It is probably due to Bona Sforza's animosity with both wives of her son, that Anna, who was very active in religious foundations (in 1578 she established at Warsaw's Bernardine Church of Saint Anne the St. Anne's Brotherhood), and supervised the construction of tomb monuments for herself, her brother, husband and mother, also not accomplished the delivery of this deed. Anna Jagiellon promote her niece Anna Vasa or her nephew Sigismund Vasa, children of her beloved sister Catherine, Queen of Sweden as candidates the the Commonwealth's throne after her death. Sigismund was elected the monarch of the Commonwealth in 1587 and in 1592 he succeeded his father as the King of Sweden, hence creating one of the largest federal states of the 16th century Europe, but was deposed in Sweden by his uncle Charles IX in 1599.
In July 1655, the grandson of Charles IX, "the Brigand od Europe", as he was called by Stefan Czarniecki, Charles X Gustav of Sweden willing to enlarge the Swedish Empire and taking advantage of the Russian invasion, advanced on the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, thus triggering one of the most devastaing wars in the history of the Central Europe, the so-called Deluge (1655-1660). The Commonwealth was attacked from north, south, east and west.
On 8 August 1655 Russian and Cossack forces captured Vilnius. The city was pillaged, burned and the population was massacred. According to the Russian historian Flavian Nikolayevich Dobryansky (1848-1919) "everything that was holy and beautiful inside and outside the city was burned; the rest was destroyed, not only the roofs, but also the tombs" (Old and New Vilna. Third edition of 1904). Just as marble tombstone of Paul Olshanski, Bishop of Vilnius in the Vilnius Cathedral, created by Padovano in 1555, and monument to Lew Sapieha, Great Lithuanian Hetman and his two wives in the Church of St. Michael in Vilnius from the 1620s, wich were damaged during that time, the royal effigies were most probaly also devastated.
The unfinished and dilapidated church of St. Anne and St. Barbara was left empty until 1666, when, at the request of the prelate Mikołaj Słupski, the king John II Casimir Vasa, great grandson of Bona Sforza, allowed the architect Jan Salwador to dismantle the building and use the materials and funds obtained from it to repair another badly damaged building, the Vilnius Cathedral. The precious marbles from the royal monuments were probably also reused.
Marble tondo of 46.5 cm in diameter from the collection of the Vilnius Univeristy, depicting a woman with long hair in antique costume, which was before the World War I in the Rumyantsev Museum in Moscow, was supposed to come from Elizabeth of Austria's tombstone.
Fragment of marble tomb monument of Elizabeth of Austria (1526-1545), Queen of Poland and Grand Duchess of Lithuania, first wife of Sigismund II Augustus by Giovanni Maria Mosca called Padovano and Giovanni Cini in Kraków, 1546-1552. Hypothetical reconstruction by Marcin Latka ©. All rights reserved.
Fragment of marble tomb monument of Barbara Radziwill (1520/23-1551), Queen of Poland and Grand Duchess of Lithuania, second wife of Sigismund II Augustus by Giovanni Maria Mosca called Padovano and Giovanni Cini in Vilnius, 1553-1562. Hypothetical reconstruction by Marcin Latka ©. All rights reserved.
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 reign of king John Albert was a period of gradual transition from gothic to renaissance art in Poland. Majority of preserved effigies of the king were most probably created posthumously, however the artists who worked for the Wawel Cathedral, beyond any doubt known the king personally.
Among the oldest is a portrait of the king as a donor kneeling before the crucified Christ in a group of sculptures known as the Triptych of John Albert. The triptych was commissioned to the king's funeral chapel and created by Stanisław Stwosz (Stanislaus Stoss) in 1501. This original retable was dismanteled in about 1758 and some elements were reused in a new altar for the Czartoryski Chapel of the Cathedral between 1873 and 1884.
Similar grafic effigy of the king was included in a graduale, a book collecting all the musical items of the Mass, which he founded in 1499 for the Cathedral. John Albert was depicted once again as donor, kneeling before the Apocalyptic Virgin in a miniature by Master Maciej z Drohiczyna (1484-1528).
The last of the effigies, and the most important, is the king's tomb effigy carved in red marble by Jörg Huber. Late gothic image of the king lying in state with all attributes of his power was crowned between 1502 and 1505 with a renaissance arch created by Francesco Fiorentino. The tomb was founded after king's death by his mother Elizabeth of Austria and his youngest brother Sigismund.
Altar from John Albert Chapel now in the Chartoryski Chapel of the Wawel Cathedral with original sculptures from the early 16th century, in the casing from the third quarter of the 19th century by Władysław Brzostowski.
Crucifixion with king John Albert as donor by Stanisław Stwosz, 1501, Chartoryski Chapel of the Wawel Cathedral.
Crucifixion with king John Albert as donor by Stanisław Stwosz, 1501, Chartoryski Chapel of the Wawel Cathedral.
Miniature in graduale of king John Albert by Master Maciej z Drohiczyna, 1499-1501, Archives of the Wawel Metropolitan Chapter in Kraków.
Tombstone of king John Albert by Jörg Huber, ca. 1502, John Albert Chapel of the Wawel Cathedral.
The Holy Trinity Triptych occupying the east wall of the Holy Cross Chapel of the Wawel Cathedral, was most probably created by Kraków's workshop of Jakub of Sącz, also known as the Master of the Holy Trinity Triptych or Master of the Choirs. It was established as a retable for the opposite Chapel of the Holy Trinity, also known as the Chapel of Queen Sophia of Halshany. The Queen, fourth and last wife of Jogaila of Lithuania (Ladislaus II Jagiello), most probably also sponsored the altar for her chapel which was finally accomplished in 1464, although built much earlier (between 1431-1433). The retable has a figure of the Risen Christ with two angels, St. Sophia with her daughters, patron saint of the Queen, and St. Anne at the top. The central group of the Holy Trinity is accompanied with statues of saints Dorothy, Margaret, Catherine and Barbara and two painted wings with choirs of apostles, martyrs, prophets and virgins on inner sides and conversion of St. Paul, vision of St. Eustace, St. George killing the dragon and St. Secundus crossing the river Po in outer sides. In 1616 or before the altar was moved to the current location in the Holy Cross Chapel.
Central part of the Holy Trinity Triptych by workshop of Jakub of Sącz, 1467, Holy Cross Chapel of the Wawel Cathedral in Kraków.
Statue of St. Dorothy from the Holy Trinity Triptych by workshop of Jakub of Sącz, 1467, Holy Cross Chapel of the Wawel Cathedral in Kraków.
Choir of the Holy Virgins from the Holy Trinity Triptych by workshop of Jakub of Sącz, 1467, Holy Cross Chapel of the Wawel Cathedral in Kraków.
St. Secundus crossing the river Po from the Holy Trinity Triptych by workshop of Jakub of Sącz, 1467, Holy Cross Chapel of the Wawel Cathedral in Kraków.
Reliquary cross, so-called smaller, one of the most exquisite examples of Kraków's late gothic goldsmithery, was founded by Cardinal Frederick Jagiellon and executed by Kraków's goldsmith after 1493. The cross, together with so-called bigger cross was ceded to the Gniezno Cathedral in 1503 as a testament bequest of the cardinal, who was a bishop of Kraków and archbishop of Gniezno. During the World War II, it was confiscated by the Nazis and transported to Germany and restituted by the church authorities in 1958.
The piece was adorned with a pelican feeding its young with its own blood, a Christian symbol of selfsacrifice at the top, floral motifs and enammeled coat of arms of the cardinal in lower parts. The cross of gilt silver and enamel, cast, repoussed and engraved and measuring 53.4 × 2.7 × 20.1 cm (21 × 1.1 × 7.9 in) is on display in the Archdiocesan Museum in Gniezno (inventory number 273).
Reliquary cross of Cardinal Frederick Jagiellon by Kraków's goldsmith, after 1493, Archdiocesan Museum in Gniezno.
Before 1516 the confraternity of Saint Reinhold in Gdańsk commissioned a retable for the Saint Reinhold Chapel of the Saint Mary's Church in the city. The outer wings of the polyptych were painted in the workshop of Joos van Cleve, who depicted himself as Saint Reinhold.
The polyptych was shipped to Gdańsk in 1516 and today is on display in the Gallery of Medieval Art of the National Museum in Warsaw (oak, central panel 194 × 158 cm (76.4 × 62.2 in), each wing 194 × 75 cm (76.4 × 29.5 in)). It is the first confirmed work commissioned by patrons from territories of today's Poland.
The second could be Triptych with the Adoration of the Magi with a monarch in a chain of the Order of the Golden Fleece in the Gemäldegalerie, Berlin (oak, central panel 72 × 52 cm (28.3 × 20.5 in), each wing 69 × 22 cm (27.2 × 8.7 in)). It was acquired from the Reimer Collection in Berlin in 1843. Possibly commissioned by Sigismund I of Poland.
The outer parts of the wings were painted en grisaille with effigies of Saints Christopher and Sebastian, which may indicate the donor, his patron saints, however among recipients of the Order of the Golden Fleece between 1451 and 1531 there were no Sebastian and only one Christopher - Christopher, Margrave of Baden-Hachberg (1453-1527). Although the latter was portraited in the similar headdress (crinale), he was not a king to depict himself as one of the Magi, and his facial features are completely different. Also other garments are very close to those from the known effigies of the Polish monarch - eg. Communion of Sigismund I, a leaf from the Prayer Book of Sigismund I the Old by Stanisław Samostrzelnik from 1524 in the British Library. The king of Poland was awarded the Order of the Golden Fleece in 1519 at the age of 52.
The sources on artistic contacts of the Polish court at that time with the Netherlands are very scarce. Among commissions confirmed in preserved inventories and accounts the are the following.
In 1526 queen Bona Sforza commissioned in Antwerp through Seweryn Boner, 16 tapestries "de lana cum figuris et imaginibus" of 200 flemish square inches in its entity. They were transported to Kraków via Frankfurt upon Main, Nuremberg and Wrocław.
In 1533 king Sigismund I commissioned through Boner and Mauritius Hernyck in Antwerp 60 tapestries with coat of arms od Poland, Lithuania and Duchy of Milan among which 20 bigger with green and blue background, 26 tapestries without coat of arms and 6 tapestries with figural scenes. The commission cost was 1170 florins and tapestries were transported to Kraków via Nuremberg, Leipzig and Wrocław.
In 1536 the king acquired 7 paintings in Flanders to adorn the apartments of prince Sigismund Augustus at the Wawel castle for 35 florins ("pro septem imaginibus Flandrensibus pictis").
The subtle marble bust of Queen Barbara Zapolya from Olesko Castle in the style of Netherlandish renaissance was probably part of a larger commission made by Sigismund I around 1520.
Madonna and Child in architectural setting
oil on panel, ca. 1535, 33.6 × 25.2 cm (13.2 × 9.9 in), inventory number Wil.1591, Museum of King John III's Palace at Wilanów
The painting represents one of several versions of ''Madonna of the Cherries'' created by Giovanni Pietro Rizzoli, called Giampietrino in about 1508-1510 when he was working alongside Leonardo da Vinci. The Giampietrino's painting is possibly a reproduction of a Madonna painted by Leonardo for Francis I of France. The latter work was probably a painting that influenced Joos van Cleve who was frequently employed by French court. The painting by Giampietrino from doctor Karl Lanz's collection is a direct link to the lost da Vinci's original. The composition enjoyed great success in the early decades of the 16th century and some twenty three versions attributed to Joos van Cleve's workshop have been identified.
Similar painting is in the Arnold and Seena Davis Collection. The work was acquired by Stanisław Kostka Potocki for his collection in the Wilanów Palace in Warsaw.
The first wooden manor on the site was constructed for Dukes of Masovia in the 15th century. It was later owned from 1516 by Anna Radziwiłł, Duchess regent of Masovia and Queen Bona Sforza after 1546 for whom an Italian style Renaissance garden was created. The new lavish wooden manor in mannerist style was built in 1570s for Anna Jagiellon. It was here that the premiere of blank-verse tragedy The Dismissal of the Greek Envoys by Jan Kochanowski took place on January 12, 1578. Sigismund III Vasa resided in the manor during the summer. Between 1602 and 1603, according to the Royal accounting books, the old manor was renovated and a new wooden house was built nearby. In 1606 the plan of the manor and garden was prepared for the king by Alessandro Albertini.
When in 1619 the king purchased the allotments belonging to Augustinian friars the construction of a new brick palace become possible. The spot for a Royal summer palace was chosen approximately 120 meters north from the original manor. According to the cornerstone found in 1972 in the foundations of the eastern wing the construction started on September 16, 1624. The structure was designed by Matteo Castelli and Constantino Tencalla and accomplished after king's death by his son Ladislaus IV Vasa. In 1655 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 and remained practically uninhabited till 1668 when it was given to Teodor Denhoff.
It is a rectangular building with four octagonal towers at the corners, arcaded courtyard and a loggia with a view on Vistula River. Largely destroyed several times, it was reconstructed in 1975.
Plan of the manor and garden in Ujazdów near Warsaw in 1606 by Alessandro Albertini, scale from. 1: 800, hand drawn multicolored document, 42 × 56 cm (16.5 × 22 in), signed: Il sito della villa di Jasdovia; Alessandro Albertini, 1606, Archiwum Główne Akt Dawnych w Warszawie, Zb. Kart. 570 – 1.
Cornerstone of the Ujazdów Castle, sandstone, 57 × 57 × 10 cm (22.4 × 22.4 × 3.9 in), inscription in Latin: REGIAE AMOENITATI / SACRA / COELO SOLO LVCO LACV COLLE VALLE / LAETA / PALATIA AESTIVA / FELICIB[us]. FVNDAMENTIS AVSPICATVRV[m.] SAXVM / ANNO D[omi]NI MDCXXIV SEPTEMBR[e] / SIGISMVNDO III POLONIAE XXXVII / CO[n]STANCIA ANNO REGE / POSITVM / ANNO D[omi]NI 1624 DIE 7[septem]BRIS (Devoted Royal delight (...) summer palace), Muzeum Zamku i Szpitala Wojskowego na Ujazdowie.
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