Don’t Waste Independence. Silver from the National Defense Fund: Masterpieces?

Temporary exhibitions

My events

Add your favourite events to My events section to have them always at your fingertips.

  • Tuesday, June 6, 2023 - Tuesday, August 15, 2023

113 objects selected from the 2.5 ton collection of silver from the National Defense Fund will be on view to August 15 in the exhibition Don't Waste Independence. Silver from the National Defense Fund: Masterpieces? at Wawel Royal Castle.

The purpose of the National Defense Fund (Fudusz Ochrony Narodowej abbreviated FON), which was established by decree of the President of the Republic of Poland Ignacy Mościcki in April 1936, was to raise additional funds for the rearmament of the army in the face of the threat posed by Nazi Germany. Poles donated en masse not only silverware, but also money, real estate, gold, as well as grain and livestock to the cause.

The display of silverware on loan from the National Museum in Poznań will be enlarged to include several objects from the Wawel collection that have not been on view for a very long time. Most of them – the national flag which covered Marshal Piłsudski’s coffin in 1935, as well as candlesticks, a kilim, and a vitrine table made for the 1939 World’s Fair in New York – are decorated with the Polish Eagle. 

“The exhibition of National Defense Fund silver is a unique event at Wawel Royal Castle. It is first and foremost a testimony to the collective concern of Polish society for the sovereignty of the country. The objects carry not only material value, but also the moving, personal emotions of the people behind the gifts; a remembrance of the glorious, historic deed of the Polish people,” says Prof. Andrzej Betlej, Director of Wawel Royal Castle.Masterpieces?Can masterpiece status be bestowed upon single artistic creation only? At the Wawel Royal Castle, we do not have an issue with rejecting such a restricted approach to the legacy of our predecessors. Nobody needs convincing that Sigismund II Augustus’ homogenous arras collection – rather than individual tapestries therein – is, in its entirety, a masterpiece of the European Renaissance. The circumstances of Wawel – Poland’s sacred hill – are somewhat similar. Also today, its image is the outcome of creative efforts by successive generations, convinced of its extraordinary nature as a place on the map, and – first and foremost – its distinctiveness in a world of collective emotions, aspirations, and historical remembrance. That is a phenomenon in itself in a reality subjected to continual conflict, the assemblage of varied artworks preserved from the years of the Hill’s greatest glory and brought in over the 20th and 21st century an unquestionable masterpiece. It is the place you think of first before Sigismund’s Chapel, Wawel Heads, the ceremonial Szczerbiec sword, or Kändler’s deeply moving Golgotha come to mind.

Wawel’s contemporary image has arisen from the collective activity of Poles; during the 1880 Galician Sejm in Lviv, they resolved to donate the ransacked Wawel Castle as a residence to Franz Joseph I of Austria. The decision resulted in the Hill’s reclamation in 1905, followed by a long-term restoration effort. As early as 1882, Jan Matejko presented Wawel with his first gift: the monumental Prussian Homage. Notably, the oil study for the masterpiece can now be viewed for the first time in the Senators’ Hall. Aleksandra Ulanowska née Borkowska’s “cent collection to restore the Wawel Castle” brought major impact, resulting in our collection’s expansion to include a number of high-quality artworks immediately prior to the outbreak of World War II. Seven hundred and eighty-eight (of 6,330) bricks embedded in the outer wall leading to the historical entranceway the Hill are evidence of the most famous collective campaign to restore the Castle, initiated by Adolf Szyszko-Bohusz in 1921.

Such is also our approach to the display of silverware from the National Defence Fund (NDF) – testimony to the Poles’ collective care for national sovereignty. While a ballroom purse, an addendum to a woman dancing, topos of beauty, is merely a more or less luxurious attire accessory; a coin-embellished mug or palace candlestick no more than a silent witnesse to feasts of Old Poland – yet let us ponder the following: is a piece of that silverware, not to mention the entire collection stored in the basement of the tower overlooking the Poznań Market Square, not a masterpiece?



Kraków Travel
Kids in Kraków
Close 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.