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The National Museum in Krakow - The Princes Czartoryski Museum

The National Museum in Krakow - The Princes Czartoryski Museum

The beginnings of the Museum are connected with Puławy and the figure of Princess Izabela Czartoryska who, having intended to preserve national mementoes from plunder and destruction, started to bring them in Puławy from many different places (from Wawel, among others). Supported in her efforts by numerous benefactors she managed, within a short period of time, to accumulate a substantial collection of Polish historical material and also valuable relics of European history and culture. To house the collections Izabela Czartoryska ordered to build  in the park of her estate in Puławy two first museums in Poland: The Temple of Sybil and The Gothic House. They were designed by a prominent architect Chrystian Piotr Aigner.

The Temple of Sybil (opened in 1801) housed the relics and  memorabilia of the Polish kings, hetmans, and contemporary national heroes.

In The Gothic House  (opened in 1809) a uniqe, sentimental and romantic collection of objects connected with eminent European personages (among others Petrarch, Shakespeare, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Wolter, Napoleon) was placed. There were also some masterpieces of art: paintings by Leonardo da Vinci, Rafael, Rembrandt.

The period of magnificence of Puławy came to an end with the fall of the November Uprising. Adam Jerzy Czartoryski, Izabela's son, the head of the insurrectionary National Government, was sentenced in absentia to death by the tsar, and the Czartoryskis' possessions were confiscated. Fortunately, the collections were saved. Firstly, they were taken to Sieniawa, and in due time most of them landed in Paris where since 1849 they were kept in palace Hotel Lambert on St.Luis's Isle which was the Czartoryskis' seat and a centre of the Polish emigration life. Thanks to the efforts of Izabela's grandson, Władysław Czartoryski, the collection expanded substantially at those times due to systematic and competent purchases. That was when such objects as Egiptian, Greek and Roman relics, sets of medieval enamal and ivory goods, medieval and early Renaissence paintings of the Italian and Netherlandish school, Italian majolica and glass, porcelain of Miśnia, Renaissence and Baroque silverware were included in the collection. With time it was decided to transfer the collections back to Poland so that they could serve the nation according to the intentions of Izabela Czartoryska and the will of Adam Jerzy. Krakow was chosen for the seat of the collections, the municipal authorities offered the former City Arsenal for this purpose. Moreover, three town houses and a part of the former Piarists monastery were purchased. After the conversion of the buildings designed by a French architect, Gabriel Ouradou, and carried out over a long period of time, an architectural complex was created that consisted of three parts: the Palace, so-called Klasztorek (Monastery) and the Arsenal, all connected by picturesque covered bridges. First the Klasztorek was opened. The date of its consecration, 1876, is considered the beginning of a new period in the history of the museum, known ever since as the Princes Czartoryski Museum. The arrangement of the exposition lasted well into the '90 of the 19th century as proper furnishing had to be produced such as special oak cabinets, display cases, pedestals and shelves which today constitute exceptionally harmonized set allowing for preservation of a specific climate of the 19th century museum interior.

During the World War II the museum suffered severe losses - the Nazi plundered it and stole the most valuable objects - among others, the paintings by Leonardo da Vinci, Rafael and Rembrandt. Irretrivably lost during the war were the collections of antique jewelery and coins, various cloths and paintings, among them Rafael's "Portrait of an unkbown youth".

In 1950 the museum was joined with the Krakow National Museum as one of its branches under the name The Czartoryski Collections. In 1962 the library collection, so far kept in the Arsenal, was transfered to a new building in św.Marka 17.

Nowadays the collections of the Princes Czartoryski Museum consist of seven departments:

  • Department XII -  Antiquities
  • Department XIII-  European Painting
  • Department XIV - European Decorative Art
  • Department XV - Armoury
  • Department XVI - The Czartoryski Graphic Art Room
  • Department XVII -The Czartoryski Library
  • Department XVIII- The Archives and Manuscript Collection

In 1991  Adam Karol Czartoryski created the Princes Czartoryski Foundation at the National Museum in Krakow which took over the collections and buildings of the Princes Czartoryski Museum and the Library.


Manuscripts kept in the library:

Rondo a la Krakowiak in F major op. 14; Public autograph
Impromptu F-sharp major op. 36; Sketch
Mazurka A minor [op. 67 nr 4]; Copy

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