History of The Czartoryski Museum
THE BEGINNING OF A DREAM
The Czartoryski Museum was founded 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.
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
THE RETURN HOME
Upon Prince Adam Jerzy's death, his younger son, Prince
Wladyslaw, took over the museum. A born collector, he and
his sister, Princess Isabella Dzalynska, 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
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
Agustyn, 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
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
Adam Karol 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
Art Museum's 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 battle, 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.