A great example of Baroque architecture, the original Royal Castle was planned on the location of a Mazovian fortress when Zygmunt III Vasa determined to maneuver Poland’s capital from Cracow to Warsaw in 1596. It was designed within the early-Baroque method by the Italian architects Giovanni Trevano, Giacomo Rodondo, and Matteo Castelli between 1598 and 1619. Successive rulers transformed the fort on many occasions. Following its destruction in World War II, the castle was rebuilt between 1971 and 1984, and lots of the unique furnishings have been returned. This huge undertaking was funded largely by donations from the Polish people.
The Royal Castle’s fascinating inside is the results of its dual function as a royal residence and as the seat of the Sejm (parliament). A tour of the fort visits lavish royal residences in addition to the Deputies’ Chamber and the Senate. Rooms have been meticulously reconstructed in the style of the 18th century, and lots of the furnishings and objets d’art are unique to the fort. These include statues, paintings, and even fragments of woodwork and stucco that had been rescued from the construction and hidden throughout World War II.
Among the many permanent exhibitions within the fort, two galleries are of explicit interest. The Gallery of Decorative Arts is a showcase for seventeenth-18th century ceramics, glass, furniture, textiles, bronzes, silverware, and jewellery. Round 200 items are on display, together with an Etruscan vase saved from the original fortress. Within the Lanckoronski Gallery there are works from the previous royal gallery of King Stanislaw August Poniatowski, donated by the Lanckoronski household in 1994. The collection consists of works by Rembrandt, Teniers the Younger, and Anton von Maron.
King Stanisław August Poniatowski
Born in 1732, King Stanisław August Poniatowski was the son of the palatine of Mazovia. He spent his youth in St. Petersburg, the place he was introduced to the future empress, Catherine the Great, who took him as her lover. Russia was keen to add Poland to its empire and, maybe to this end, Catherine promised the Polish crown to Poniatowski. When he fell out of favor and was sent again to Warsaw, she engineered his election as king of Poland in 1764. However Poniatowski was unable to repel his mighty neighbors: by 1795 Poland had lost its statehood and the king was pressured to abdicate.