The Lazienki Palace is also known as the Water Palace due to the site in which it is built – the Royal Baths Park, in Warsaw. The neoclassical palace has been constructed between 1683 and 1689 on an artificial island which was created on Lazienki Lake, dividing the lake into a smaller pond to the north and a larger one to the south. The palace is not stranded on the island, but it is connected to the land beyond the lake via two bridges which have ionic colonnades.
The initial plan was to construct a bathhouse on that site. The beneficiary of the building was Stanislaw Herakliusz Lubormirski, the landlord of the neighboring palace – the Ujazdow Castle. The estate was enhanced after 1678 by means of garden pavilions (four in number). The architect behind the marble building was Tylman Gamersky who had the task of creating the aforementioned bathhouse, to which he had to add a pavilion fit for living and a garden grotto.
The same architect would then embellish the interior of the edifice with wonderful stucco works. Due to the purpose for which it was intended as well as the surroundings in which it was found, the decorative elements of the edifice also included water divinities, and these were mainly located in the center of the building, surrounding the fountain. Other ornamental elements used were reliefs, Latin inscriptions and sculptures, both on the interior and on the façades of the edifice.
Another member of the Stanislaw noble family, this time August Poniatowski, decided to turn the bathhouse into a dwelling and thus the remodeling work began in 1764, under the supervision of Domenico Merlini. The project was completed in 1795, but the edifice suffered damages during WWII, as many other edifices did in that time. The German troops pierced the walls of the edifice so as to place explosives and thus turn the building into ashes. But they never got around to doing this. Soon afterwards, the edifice was used as a garrison.
The façades of the palace form a unity by means of an entablature which is sustained by immense Corinthian pillars that connect the two floors and are ‘embraced’ by a banister which is decorated with statuettes representing mythological beings.
On the ground floor, one can admire Bacchus’ Room which is beautifully adorned with Dutch alabaster from the 17th century and a painting from Jacob Jordaens workshop (a Flemish Baroque painter) which illustrates ‘Silenus and Bacchantes.’ The same room used to contain a painting on the ceiling (the 1778 ‘Bacchus, Ceres, Venus and Cupid’), but the Germans destroyed it during WWII (1944).
The Round Room (Rotunda) occupies the central part of the palace. The interior is dressed in white and yellow marble and adorned with the representations of the Polish kings. It is no wonder that this is one of the most relevant rooms in the palace, representative of the neoclassical decorative art.
Opposite of the Round Room is the small Art Gallery in which one can find minor works signed by the masters Rubens and Rembrandt. Other rooms located at the ground floor are the chapel and dining room which used to hold the famous ‘Thursday Dinners’ that brought together free masons and other important figures of the Polish Enlightenment. The furniture and the paintings found in this room follow the classical design.
Solomon’s Room, one of the largest ones at this floor, was embellished with a series of painting which retraced the history of Solomon – this explains the name of the chamber. The artist behind the paintings was Marcello Bacciarelli who had created the works of art between 1791 and 1793 for King Stanisław Augustus. However, all of the 6 paintings from this series were destroyed by the Germans back in 1944.
The first floor holds the royal apartments, an art gallery, a balcony, the king’s cabinet, royal chambers, a vestibule and an office.
The palace is impressive in itself but the picturesque location in which it is situated makes Lazienki Palace more alluring to the tourists who want to catch a glimpse of history in their travelling but who also want to wonder in a peaceful and natural surrounding and admire the clear water of the lake and the beautiful garden of flowers.