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.
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.
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.
The second reception stairway, the Senators' Staircase, of the Wawel Castle was constructed between 1599 and 1602 by Giovanni Trevano and Ambrogio Meazzi in the north-west corner of the castle. It is the first such modern construction in Poland facilitating the communication between the floors of the residence and located in the interior space of the edifice. Marble stairs do not run steeply, as it is in the Renaissance Deputies' Staircase, but break up regularly in the middle floors with comfortable podests. Early baroque portals of the saircase with auricular elements designed by Trevano were executed in greenish Carpathian sandstone by Meazzi. The Summary of the Royal spendings by the Kraków's supevisor Franciszek Rylski of Ostoja coat of arms from 1599 and 1600 in the Central Archives of Historical Records in Warsaw (I 299), records a spending of fl. 2991 gr. 15 den. 12 "for demolition of the old stairs and construction of the new one, for Italians and different materials" and salaries of "Jan Treurer (Giovanni Trevano), mason ad r[ation]em fl. 1300 datum fl. 1250" and "Ambrosio Meaczi (Ambrogio Meazzi) to inlay the stairs and doors ad r[ation]em fl. 500 datum fl. 300".
Senators' Staircase of the Wawel Castle, constructed between 1599 and 1602 by Giovanni Trevano and Ambrogio Meazzi.
Bronze cartouche with coat of arms of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth without the Vasa emblem (missing) from the Wawel Castle by Anonymous from Poland, 1604, Czartoryski Museum. One of the cartouches from the overdoor in the northern wing of the castle leading to the Senators' Staircase.
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.
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 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 (meaning in Italian, "a palace in a fortress"). 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.
Exterior and interior
(1) 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) Sigismund III Vasa on catafalque by Christian Melich, 1633, Wawel Royal Castle.
(3-4) The Ladislaus Tower of the Castle, 1637.
Tiles from the excavations in the Royal Castle's garden, 1630s:
(5) Tile with eagles from a stove,
(6) Stove tile with a lion or a griffon,
(7) Dutch tile with a soldier.
(1-2) Portrait of Sigismund III Vasa and Constance of Austria by Philipp Holbein II or workshop, ca. 1625, Royal Castle in Warsaw.
(3) Portrait of Philip III of Spain by Andrés López Polanco, ca. 1617, Skokloster Castle, 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.
(4-5) 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.
(6) 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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