Wilanow Palace (Palatul Wilanow)

The Wilanow Palace is a Polish edifice erected for King Jan Sobieski which comprises 60 rooms, the majority of them being filled with objects connected to the royal family, such as portraits, valuable artifacts and jewelry.

The estate, which contains a beautiful garden and the Wilanow Palace, carries a great importance for the Polish population. The edifice dates from the 17th century and it bear the mark of the architect August Locci. All the decorations are heavy in symbolism, representing various motifs from the ancient Greece and Rome.

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The interior decoration is representative for three different epochs: the oldest rooms (the royal suits which have a Baroque architecture) are located in the central part of the palace, the southern wing is decorated in the architectural style specific for the 18th century, whereas the northern wing bears the stamp of the 19th century – when the palace was property of the Potocki family.

Construction

The architect received order from the king to construct an edifice with only a ground floor which would respect the general plan usually followed by the Polish buildings. But the original plan was changed due to the military successes obtained and due to the fact that the royal family gained more importance. Thus the edifice was expanded so as to do justice both to the royalty and to the Republic of Poland.

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Massive transformations to the edifice took place between 1677 and 1696. The final result was a combination of Polish, Italian and French architectural elements. The edifice was inherited by the king’s sons, after Sobieski passed away. Other modifications to the edifice were conducted in 1730, under king August II the Strong, who mainly focused on the interior decoration.

Stanislaw Kostka Potocki, who became the owner of the Wilanow Palace in the 19th century, made a lot of efforts to enhance the value of the palace.  It was because of him that, in 1805, the palace housed one of the first museums located in the entire state.

Museum

The museum is structured in two parts: the downstairs and the first floor. Probably the most relevant area in the museum is the Gallery of Polish Portraits, where tourists can admire the paintings which illustrate the Polish monarchs, important figures in the history of the state (such as people who have played significant roles in national uprisings), or distinguished artists. The authors of these works of art are either of Polish or of foreign origin.

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The next part of the tour consists of visiting the royal suits. These were divided based on the purpose for which they were being used, such as apartments for parties, for receiving guests and friends, for official business, for sleep or for listening to music.

A unique collection of coffin portraits which is found nowhere else on the European continent can be admire at the museum. These are actually realistic portraits taken of the deceased noblemen once they were placed in their coffins and represent a distinctive characteristic of the Baroque style, encountered solely in Poland.

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The practice was that the portrait of the nobleman was painted on metal and the representation was placed on the coffin, facing the mourners, so that the person that passed away could have an overview of the extravagant funeral services held in his/her behalf.

In fact, the majority of these pieces of art were created while the noblemen were still alive. So the detailing is quite impressive, in as much as we are offered a complex image of the nobility that dwelt in Poland during the 17th century.

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Another point of attraction within the palace is represented by the statue of King Jan Sobieski, which was initially located near the main entrance. The sculpture, which was created in 1693, was meant as a reminder of how the king defeated the Turks.

But the statue was moved in 1729 as a result of the modifications conducted to the Grand Vestibule and it ended up in close proximity to the southern tower.

The grandeur of the edifice is noticeable upon a first look. Tourists are impressed with the architectural and decorative elements, as well as with the lavishness conveyed on the Wilanow Palace.