History of The Czartoryski MuseumPrint this page
THE BEGINNING OF A DREAM
The Czartoryski Museum was founded by in 1796 by
Princess Izabela Czartoryska
to preserve the Polish heritage in keeping with the Princess' motto:
"The Past to the Future". The first objects in the so-called "Temple of Memory" were trophies commemorating
the victory against the Turks at the siege of Vienna in 1683. The Museum also features historical artefacts from
the looted treasures of the Wawel Cathedral, the Royal Castle and other objects donates by Polish Families.
Izabela also bought the treasures of the Dukes of Brabant which included his books, which were to be a
particular highlight of the collection. Influenced by the Romantic artistic movement, she also acquired objects
of sentimental significance that represented the glory and misery of human life. Among these were
Shakespeare's chair, fragments from the grave of Romeo and Juliet, ashes of El Cid and Ximena from the Cathedral
of Burgos, and relics from Abelard and Heloise, and Petrach and Laura.
A MOVE TO PARIS
In 1798, Izabela's son, Prince Adam Jerzy Czartoryski, travelled to Italy and acquired "The Lady with an Ermine"
by Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael's "Portrait of A Young Man", and many Roman antiquities. However,
Prince Adam Jerzy
was always more a
politician than an art-collector. He was condemned to death by the Russians after the 1830 insurrection
and forced to flee across Europe. He established himself in Paris, and in 1843 bought The Hotel Lambert which
became the Living Museum of Poland. All the objects from the first museum were displayed in Paris.
THE RETURN HOME
Upon Prince Adam Jerzy's death, his younger son,
, took over the museum.
A born collector, he and his sister, Princess Isabella Dzialynska, expanded the collection to include: the
Polonaise carpet, Etruscan and Greek vases, Roman and Egyptian antiquities as well as arms and armours, and
Limoges enamels. At the 1865 Exposition des Arts Decoratifs in Paris, Wladyslaw created a Polish room to exhibit
the famous carpet and part of his collection.
In 1871, after the French defeat in the Franco-Prussian War, Prince Wladyslaw packed or hid all of the artefacts
and fled. In 1874, the city of Krakow offered him the arsenal in the Old Wall as a museum, which he called upon
Violet-le-Duc to renovate, who in turn delegated the project to his son-in-law Maurice Ouradou. In 1878, one
hundred years after Princess Izabela's set up her museum in Pulawy, the new museum, as it is seen today, was
opened. For nearly twenty years until his death in 1894, Prince Wladyslaw set about adding to the collection.
THE EXPANSION OF THE ESTATE
Prince Adam Ludwik
, then carried on
the work of his father, Prince Wladyslaw, and in 1897 he takes over the Sieniawa Ordynacja property with the
Emperor Francis-Joseph. At that point his capital assets were estimated at 4.5 million Austrian Crowns, not
including the Collections. In 1899, Adam Ludwik's aunt Izabela Dzialynska bequeathed The Goluchow Estate, with
all the collections that she had bought with her beloved brother Wladyslaw, to her two nephews. Prince Adam
Ludwik cared for the two Museums.
He then travelled to Japan and acquired the vases and bronzes still displayed today at the Goluchow Castle.
In 1914, he was called up to the Austrian Army and his wife Princess Maria Ludwika took over the Museum and
took most of the important artefacts to Dresden because of her connections with the Royal Saxon Family.
Although at the end of the war the Czartoryskis encountered resistance to bringing the collection back in
Poland, the collection is finally restored to the museum in Krakow in 1920.
DISRUPTED BY WAR
In 1937, after Prince Adam Ludwick's death, his son Prince
, takes over as head of the Family. He married Princess
Dolores Victoria Maria de las Mercedes de Borbon y Orleans and spent
most of his time in Poland. Then, in August 1939, Europe is thrown
into turmoil, and the museum is forced to prepare for war. Sixteen
cases packed with the most precious objects are transported and
walled in Sieniawa, while the rest of the collection is carried
down to the cellars of the museum, where unfortunately the Germans
find the cases and loot the tradable objects. Luckily although the
Leonardo and other pictures are roughly handled, they are not damaged.
On September 22, 1939, Prince Agustyn removed what remained of the treasures and took them to his cousin's
property in Pewkinie. However, soon afterwards the Gestapo finds the cases and takes them back to Krakow
though not to the museum. On January 25, 1940, the final selections of the 85 most important items from the
Museum are sent to Dresden where Dr. Posse, Hitler's plenipotentiary, decides that all objects are to be
part of the Fuhrer's own Collection at Linz. From that moment the museum, whose curator was to die in a
concentration camp, is closed to the public.
In 1945, Dr. Hans Frank, german governor of Poland and personal
friend of Hitler brought the paintings from Berlin for his own use
at the Wawel Castle. But when the Germans evacuate Krakow in January,
he takes the paintings with him to Silesia and then to his own villa
in Neuhaus. The Americans arrest Frank on May 4, and the Polish
representative at the Allies Commission for the Retrieval of Works
of Art claimed the stolen paintings on behalf of the Czartoryski
Museum. However, the Raphael and 843 other artefacts are missing
from the collection.
A LONG AWAITED RETURN
When the Iron Curtain is drawn on Poland, the museum is reopened and run by the communist government. Although
the economical situation is desperate, it survived thanks largely to the work of Professor Marek Rostworoski
who dedicated his life to the collection. In 1991, the High Court of the Nation returned the Museum to its
rightful owner, Prince Adam Karol Czartoryski, along with the library housed in a nearby buildings.
IZABELA'S VISION LIVES ON
Today the Museum is administered by the Princes Czartoryski Foundation
set up by Prince
in 1991. The Museum has organized exhibitions in
Italy (Rome-Milan-Florence), Sweden (Malmo- Stockholm), Turkey (Istanbul),
and Japan (Kyoto-Nagoya-Yokohama). In the fall of 2002, "The
Lady With An Ermine" was featured at the Milwaukee
tribute to the splendour of Poland. The portrait
and other items from the Collection also went on to Houston and
San Francisco throughout 2003.
LOST AND FOUND ITEMS
Three important objects were found and recuperated for the museum:
- The "Polonaise" carpet was found at Christies auction house in
London on behalf of an Australian seller - it was recuperated with help from
the Polish government after 5 years of legal battles, and on the 23rd of September
1997 finally returns to the Museum.
- An Islamic textile important for its iconographical representation of angels
from the 16th century, was handed back to the Foundation on the 10th of May
2002 by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA).
- A 15th century reliquary, bought in good faith on the art market in 1954
by the private Abegg-Stifrung Museum in Riggisberg Switzerland and returned
to the Czartoryski Foundation on the 15th of September 2004 during the official
visit of the President of the Republic of Poland Mr. Aleksander Kwasnieski
and Mrs. Kwasnieska to Bern.