Titian and Others: The Newest Works in the Wawel Royal Castle Collection

Friday, May 19, 2023 - Sunday, June 11, 2023

Buy a ticket
  • Friday, May 19, 2023 - Sunday, June 11, 2023

Wawel Royal Castle presents its most recent acquisitions. Join the first Wawel showing of masterpieces by Titian, Brueghel, Bordone, and others, alongside never before exhibited treasures from the Sanguszko collection, as well as unique Meissen porcelain sculptures including a life-size fox (one of only four in the world). A recovered wartime loss – Jan Maurits Quinkhardt’s The Drawing Lesson of 1762 – rounds out imposing and unprecedented special showing, Titian and Others: Wawel Royal Castle’s Newest Works of Art.

All of these masterpieces, now part of the Wawel permanent collection, contribute to the historical, multifaceted narrative of Polish cultural identity. In keeping with Wawel Royal Castle’s mission to disseminate knowledge about its priceless collection, organisers are putting these works on display as quickly as they can.

Joanna Winiewicz-Wolska, chief curator of the Wawel Royal Castle collections stresses that two of the acquired, Diana and Callisto by Paris Bordone and Charon’s Boat by Jan Breughel the Younger are exceptionally significant. “These paintings, which date to the sixteenth and first half of the seventeenth century, respectively, are from the era of Wawel’s greatness under the last kings of the Jagiellon dynasty and the first king of the Vasa dynasty. Sigismund III Vasa bought paintings from Italy and the Netherlands, and his art agents sought to acquire works by the painters of the Breughel family. Paris Bordone’s work, in turn, was known to Sigismund II Augustus. Proof of this is his portrait of court goldsmith and medaler Gian Giacomo Caraglio, whom the king ennobled. Today it hangs in the Military Review Room.” 

Titian and Others is also an invitation to admire priceless treasures from the collection of the Sanguszko family. Among them are three seventeenth-century tapestries made of wool and silk: Allegorical Forest Landscape, Landscape with Cocks, and Landscape with Hares. The verdures are part of a unique set of tapestries of which only seven survive. Wawel now holds six of them; the three already in the collection are Landscape with Fountain, Landscape with Swans, and Summer Landscape with a River. The final textile in the series, Tapestry with Animals, is in the Museu de Arte de São Paulo in Brazil. Another remarkable textile from the Sanguszko collection is a silk banner with the coats of arms of Lithuania (Mounted Knight) and the Korczak arms (Lithuania, 1710–1745). The newly acquired eighteenth-century Meissen porcelain is also sure to delight. On view is a life-size figure of a fox (h. 44.5 cm) modelled by Johann Gottlieb Kirchner for Augustus II the Strong, king of Poland and elector of Saxony, and is one of only four extant in the world. Alongside is a charming pair of pugs by Johann Joachim Kaendler. In addition to the figures, tableware such as a classically beautiful sugar bowl, make an appearance. There is also a sauceboat and serving dish from the Baroque service of Aleksander Józef Sułkowski, one of the first ministers of King Augustus III. 

The multifaceted exhibition is completed by a found and recovered war loss – the painting The Drawing Lesson by Jan Maurits Quinkhardt. Visitors to the Castle, will also come across a sixteenth-century polearm, a glaive of the guard of Emperor Maximilian II and a fragment of a sculpture of a knight in armor – the left arm (1510–1520).


Titian (Tiziano Veccellio), (1480/1490–1576) and workshop
Allegory of Love, ca. 1530–1540
Oil on canvas, 96.8 cm x 108 cm
The painting is a variant of Titian’s Allegory of Married Love in the Musée du Louvre, and dated to 1530–1540. The main figures: a woman and a man, as well as a putto carrying a bundle of arrows in general outline duplicate the compositional scheme of the Paris painting, but are posed slightly differently, and have different attributes. Venus holds a bow in her right hand, while her left hand holds up a mirror, which is presented to her by a man dressed in armor. The female figure on the right holds a lute. This set of props suggests love and harmony, and the reflection of the woman’s face in the mirror alludes to the symbolism of transience (Vanitas). The mirror is also an attribute of the personification of Prudence and Truth.  Successful compositions were often repeated in Titian’s studio. Slightly different variants were made, often with the participation of the master himself. The Wawel Allegory of Love is one of several variants; it is distinguished from the others by its high artistic level. The painting’s provenance is established from the late 18th century. The work came from the imperial collection in Vienna – it was in the picture gallery at the Belvedere, then in the Kunsthistorisches Museum. In 1937, it was exchanged for another painting with the De Boer gallery in Amsterdam. From there it found its way to the New York dealer Frederick Monta, who sold the work to Piero Corsini. It had been in the Corsini family collection since 1946. The painting, which has a long bibliography was exhibited in 2016 at the Národni Galerie in Prague, and a year later at the Kunsthalle in Hamburg.

Jan  Brueghel the Younger (1601–1678)
Charon’s Boat, 3rd quarter 17th c.
Oil on copper, 17.9 x 25.6 cm
Charon’s Boat
from the third quarter of the seventeenth century is an illustration of the Greek myth of Charon, the old man who transported the souls of the dead across the river Styx. In the painting, Charon is a gray-haired man shown on the left-hand side, attempting to push his crowded boat away from the shore. Monsters emerging from the water cling to the side. On the left, flames can be seen from beyond the cliffs – their glow illuminates the sky. To the right, at the foot of the rocks, a huge mill wheel can be seen. The scenery is reminiscent of visions of hell, introduced into painting by Hieronymus Bosch.  The painting has been attributed to Jan Brueghel the Younger. The artist referenced works by Bosch’s continuers, Pieter Bruegel the Elder and Jan Brueghel the Elder, his father, including Juno in the Underworld, The Temptation of St. Anthony, and Aeneas and Sibyl in the Underworld. Joanna Winiewicz-Wolska points out that the artist uses similar compositional and stylistic procedures, but the subject of the painting is his individual choice, his own interpretation of the myth of Charon, referring to a scene from Book III of Dante Alighieri's Divine Comedy, who made Charon the carrier of sinful souls to hell. The painting comes from the private collection of Bob Haboldt; it was on long-term loand at Snijders & Rockoxhuis in Antwerp, where it could be seen in a permanent exhibition.

François de Troy (1645–1730)
Portrait of Jakub Ludwik Sobieski (1667–1737)
Paris, 1699
Oil on canvas, 78 x 63 cm
The portrait of Jakub Ludwik Sobieski (1667–1737) comes from the portrait gallery of the palace in Podhorce. According to old inventories, there was an inscription on the back identifying the painter and the date it was made: “Peint à Paris par François de Troy en 1699.” The artist was in exile in Saint-Germain-en-Laye after leaving England. At that time, he may have met Jakub Sobieski and painted his portrait. Archival sources also reveal that he painted a portrait of the youngest of the three Sobieski brothers, Konstantyn – both portraits were probably painted during the Sobieski princes stay in Paris.  The portrait of Jakub remained in the gallery of the palace in Podhorce, which belonged to the Sobieski brothers from 1682 to 1718. Subsequent owners of the residence were the Rzewuskis, and from 1865 Eustachy Sanguszko. The portrait was among the works that Roman Sanguszko, Eustachy’s son, managed to transport to Gumniska during World War II, and then via Romania to São Paulo. It has remained in the Sanguszko family, residing in France in recent years, until today. Purchased from Paul Sanguszko in October 2022.

Paris Bordon (Bordone) (1500–1571)
Diana and Callisto (ca. 1545)
Oil on panel, 28.5 x 110 cm
Diana and Callist
o from about 1545 is an illustration of the myth according to Ovid’s Metamorphoses. In several sequences, it tells the story of the nymph Callisto, deceitfully seduced by Jupiter, who had taken the form of the goddess Diana. When Callisto is found to be pregnant while bathing, an enraged Diana banishes her from her retinue. In the final scene, on the right, further in, the distraught nymph kneels before the jealous Juno, the wife of Jupiter, who, according to Ovid, turned the nymph into a bear. The background of the composition is a vast landscape. The painting was either the wall of a cassone or, as a spalliera, was part of a cycle with the story of Diana, intended to decorate secular interiors. It is attributed to the Venetian painter Paris Bordone, a pupil of Titian. Giorgio Vasari in his biography of Paris Bordone (to which Joanna Winiewicz-Wolska refers) mentions that the composition depicting Jupiter and the nymph was sent by the artist to the court of the Polish king. The painting Diana and Callisto will thus remind us of the Polish court’s contacts with Paris Bordone, whom Queen Bona visited in Treviso in 1566 on her way to Bari, and Gian Giacomo Caraglio, goldsmith and medaller of Sigismund II Augustus, commissioned a beautiful portrait from him, which can be seen today in one of the rooms at Wawel Royal Castle. The painting, repeatedly mentioned in the literature and exhibited – most recently in Paris in 2018. It was purchased at the Maison D’Art Gallery in Monaco.

Wawel Royal Castle

Wawel 5

The spectacular renaissance palace that we admire today atop Wawel Hill is the result of the refurbishment of the Gothic Royal Castle in the first half of the 16th century according to the wishes of Sigismund I the Old (Zygmunt Stary). It was the abode of Polish kings and their closest family, while the stately halls provided a backdrop for courtly and political life.

The impressive space of the arcaded courtyard is where you enter the individual exhibitions: the State Rooms, Royal Private Apartments, Crown Treasury and Armoury, and Oriental Art. Those interested in the history of the castle and the hill in the early medieval times are welcome to visit the Lost Wawel exhibition.

Visiting the castle interiors provides a great opportunity to imagine details of the lives of bygone kings. The first-floor chambers (Royal Private Apartments) are designed to portray their former character and furnishing. Here you will find royal quarters, chambers of the royal courtiers, quarters for the guests, and the premises where monarchs yielded to their passions. The special interests of the kings of Poland in the 16th century were connected with arcane knowledge and alchemy. Sigismund (Zygmunt) III Vasa had a laboratory set up in one of the towers, where he conducted experiments with the participation of an eminent alchemist, Michał Sędziwój. Earlier, the semi-legendary master Twardowski allegedly operated in the castle. They say that King Sigismund II Augustus (Zygmunt August) had him summon the spirit of his beloved though prematurely deceased wife, Barbara Radziwiłłówna. The collection of tapestries from the unique collection of Sigismund II Augustus, made in Brussels in the mid-16th century, are the most valuable of all the works of art displayed here. It is the largest collection of tapestries in the world to be made to the commission of just one ruler. Displayed in the Private Apartments are primarily the examples with landscapes and animals, that is the verdures.

Visiting the second floor (the State Rooms), you enter the space of official events of state significance that took place during the Golden Age of Polish culture. Worth special attention are the assembly halls of the two houses of the Sejm: the Polish Parliament. The first took counsel in the Senators’ Hall. The largest in the castle, this chamber doubled as the place where other important state and court events and ceremonies were held: balls, plays, musical performances, and even royal weddings. On the walls of the Senators’ Hall, covered in cordovan (Cuir de Cordoue), that is dyed and lavishly decorated leather, we can admire successive majestic tapestries from the collection of Sigismund II Augustus, this time with biblical themes. The lower house of the Sejm held sessions in the Audience Hall, also known as Under the Heads, from its most characteristic element, that is sculpted renaissance heads set in the coffers of the ceiling. It was also here that the King would receive envoys and issue judgements. There is a legend connected to one of the decorative heads presenting a woman with a ribbon covering her mouth. When Sigismund Augustus was about to issue a verdict in a difficult case, the head spoke out from the ceiling: Rex Auguste iudica iuste (“King Augustus, judge justly”). Her words were followed, yet from that time on the mouth of the woman has been gagged with a band, so that she would never again intervene with royal decisions.

When the Sejm was in session, the royal tribunal moved to another stately chamber, known as the Chamber under the Eagle. Today we can admire on its walls not only the cordovan but also royal portraits and historical scenes from the 17th century. Maintained in a similar baroque style is the Chamber under the Birds with a marble fireplace designed by Giovanni Trevano and portals with the coats of arms of the Vasa dynasty. This was the favourite chamber of Sigismund III. Adjacent to it is a little chapel richly decorated with stuccowork, where the king used to hear mass. A bonus for aficionados of all things military and knightly are the Military Review Chamber with a frieze portraying a military parade before the king and the Tournament Hall, with a knightly tournament depicted on the frieze. The paintings, works of Antoni of Wrocław and Hans Dürer (brother of the famous Albrecht) originated in the first half of the 16th century.

Trophies can also be admired at the exhibition of Oriental Art, which is a collection of objects obtained through military and commercial contacts with the countries of the Middle East, and of Chinese ceramics. Works of artists, craftsmen and artisans from Turkey, Crimea, Caucasus, and Iran made their way to Poland over the centuries, and in the 17th century the local custom among the nobility and court ceremonial acquired slightly oriental – Sarmatian – features.

OK We use cookies to facilitate the use of our services. If you do not want cookies to be saved on your hard drive, change the settings of your browser.