All the King’s Tapestries: Homecomings 2021–1961–1921

Temporary exhibitions

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  • Thursday, March 18, 2021 - Sunday, October 31, 2021

For six months all of the tapestries from the collection of Sigismund II Augustus that are preserved in Poland will be displayed in the castle. The king commissioned this magnificent tapestry collection, specifically designed to adorn Wawel Castle, from the leading Brussels’ workshops in the mid-1500s. Now, for the first time since Sigismund II Augustus’s day, the entire collection of 137 royal tapestries, ranging from monumental figurative textiles with biblical scenes, through verdures depicting animals and armorial tapestries, to small tapestries meant to cover furniture, will be on view. Many of the tapestries have never before been put on public display.

This symbolic return of Sigismund II Augustus’s collection to the walls of Wawel Castle in 2021 coincides with the exact anniversaries of two earlier homecomings. The first, which took place sixty years ago, ended the decades-long odyssey begun with the tapestries’ dramatic evacuation from Wawel in the first days of World War II. The textiles traveled a circuitous and perilous route through war-torn Europe to finally find safe haven in Canada. Their return to Poland twenty years later was celebrated on March 18, 1961, with the grand opening of a new exhibition with the tapestry collection in the starring role.
The second of the eponymous homecomings was made possible by a peace treaty signed one hundred years ago, on March 18, 1921, in Riga. The treaty, which sealed Poland’s victory in the war with Soviet Russia, facilitated the restitution of thousands of works of art and other pieces of cultural property that had been taken to Tsarist Russia during the Partitions of Poland. The treaty sanctioned the return of Sigismund II Augustus’s tapestry collection, which had been looted during the third partition in 1795.

The exhibition evokes the atmosphere of the Renaissance castle, splendidly bedecked with tapestries, as it would have been five centuries ago on festive occasions. It also tells the story of the tremendous work performed by generations of conservators grappling with the effects of the damage and destruction visited upon the tapestries during their turbulent history.

***
March 18-June 25 9:30am-5pm, last entry 3:50pm
June 26–August 31 9:30 am-6 pm, last entry 5pm
Sept.ember–October 9:30am-5pm, last entry 4pm

Tickets: PLN 46/31, Guded touts PLN 58/43

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