The Princes Czartoryski Museum
19, św. Jana Str. and 8 Pijarska Str.
in renovation
The Princes Czartoryski Museum was the first private museum to be opened to the public on Polish soil. It was founded in Puławy in 1801 by Princess Izabela Czartoryska, née Fleming, who had two buildings built on her estate for the purpose. The words The Past for the Future were engraved over the entrance to one of them, the Temple of Sybil, underscoring both the mission and aim of the newly established institution, namely, to save a ‘national collection’ and hand it down to future generations of a free Poland. The first of the two museum buildings, the Temple of Sybil, was opened in 1801 and the second, the Gothic House, in 1809. The museum was a treasure trove of memorabilia connected with Poland’s rulers and heroes, a collection which testified to the grandeur of the Polish state. It also held a diverse collection of works of art linked with the broad sweep of history; paintings, works of decorative art and militaria. In the aftermath of the November Uprising, in which the Czartoryskis had played an active role, their property faced confiscation. However, it proved possible to save the valuable collections, which were partly hidden in Poland and partly transported to Hôtel Lambert, the princely family’s Paris residence.
In 1876, Władysław Czartoryski (1828-1892) brought the entire collection together again in Krakow, housing it in three buildings. These were the former Arsenal, granted for the purpose by the city’s authorities, a nearby monastery and three houses, which were bought by the prince and converted into a palace. In 1879, the Sieniawska Czartoryski Entailment was established, the income from which was assigned to maintaining both the museum and the library.
The Princes Czartoryski Foundation was established in 1991, when the heir to the art collections, archival records and library resources, Adam Karol Czartoryski, handed the collections to the Polish nation in the form of a perpetual Foundation and, for organisational and financial reasons, left them within the structures of the National Museum in Krakow where they had been functioning since 1950.
The Art of Antiquity Gallery is housed on the first floor of the former City Arsenal. The exhibition contains works of art and material culture from Ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, Greece, Etruria and Rome. Dating from 3,000 years BC to the 7th century AD, the greater part of the exhibits belongs to Prince Władysław Czartoryski’s collection. They are complemented by items from the National Museum in Krakow’s collection, these having been deposited into the Museum’s safe-keeping by the Potocki family of Krzeszowice. The Gallery begins with contemporary and 19th century works in the antique style, displaying both direct copies of the art of antiquity and works inspired by the art of ancient times.
© 2010 National Museum in Krakow
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