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Furniture

The collection of furniture comprises almost 1500 pieces, created in Europe during six centuries; from the 15th c to the 20th c. The core of the collection is furniture from the 16th and 17th centuries, collected with a view to its exhibition in the royal chambers, intended to remind everybody of the great times of the Wawel residence during the reign of the Jagiellon and the Vasa dynasties. The furniture was obtained through purchase from private individuals and from antique shops in Poland and abroad, mainly in Italy (e.g. in Venice) and Vienna, and also from donations, e.g. from Leon Piniński, Jerzy Mycielski or Antonina and Dawid Abrahamowicz.
 
What is particularly interesting is a collection of 16th-c. Italian furniture, with chests resembling in shape antique sarcophagi, which are sculptured, decorated with moulding, gilt, polychromy and inlay; and richly decorated chest benches and decorative tables.
French mannerist furniture from the 2nd half and the end of the 16th c. matches the Italian furniture in terms of the quality of workmanship and richness of decoration. The collection includes mainly tables and two-part tallboys created by cabinet makers from Ile-de-France and Burgundy.
 
There is also furniture from the leading German or Dutch centres, e.g. a collection of portable boxes from the end of the 16th c. and the 1st half of the 17th c., made in Augsburg, Cologne or Antwerp, with rich inlay from multi-hued varieties of wood or incrustation of ivory and ebony. A monumental cabinet with tortoiseshell covering is also included in this collection, decorated additionally with drawings presenting Roman temples, created in 1674 by the Gandava draughtsman, Livinus Cruyl, commissioned by the Wrocław bishop, cardinal Frederik von Hessen Darmstadt.
 
The furniture from later centuries is quite well represented, especially that from the 17th and 18th centuries, including a collection of cabinets, e.g. Dutch kussenkast display cabinets, decorated with ebony, and used for keeping china; German ‘facade’ and ‘undulating’ cabinets, created most probably in Augsburg and Frankfurt; or richly ornamented Gdańsk cabinets. The latter are also represented by tables, a linen press, chairs and a two-part tallboy with convex and concave profile on its façade.
 
The collection of pieces from the 18th c. is dominated by French furniture. These are mostly decorative pieces – desks, tables, small escritoires, made in the workshops of Criaerd, Avril, Dubois or Topin; chest of drawers are the most numerous exhibits, mostly by famous Parisian cabinet makers, such as Leleu, Stumpff, Franc, Lardin, Ellaume or Revault.
 
The collection of Wawel furniture also contains 19th-c. pieces; examples of classicism, empire, Biedermeier, Luis Felipe, Napoleon III, and also secession and modernism.

Tallboy
Tallboy

TALLBOY. Hugues Sambin’s workshop, France, Burgundy, 4th quarter of the 16th c. Two-tiered buffet with rich sculptured decoration, made according to the Hugues Sambin’s school (c. 1520-1601). He was an architect, sculptor and designer working in Dijon and Besançon, using designs and drawings by Jacques Androuet Du Cerceau.

"Armoire à deux corps" tallboy
"Armoire à deux corps" tallboy

ARMOIRE À DEUX CORPS TALLBOY. France, Ile-de-France, end of the 16th c. This tallboy represents the second French Renaissance, with architectural divisions of the façade and relief decoration of e.g. door panels which include allegories of the four elements (fire, air, earth and water), based on Hendrick Goltzius’s drawings.

Table
Table

TABLE. Italy, Siena, mid 16th c. Reported to have been in the Palmieri palace in Siena, and then in Sickart’s collection in Vienna. A formal piece, with rich sculpted decoration, on the outside surfaces of the front supports, there are the coats of arms in cartouches with spiral frames of Italian families.

Chest
Chest

CHEST. Italy, Bologna, mid 16th c. A chest with a rich grotesque and plant decoration, modelled on Nicoletto da Modena’s prints and drawings, made with the use of inlay and the pseudo-inlay technique, used in Bolognese workshops.

Sarcophagus chest
Sarcophagus chest

SARCOPHAGUS CHEST. Italy, Florence, 1st half of the 16th c. A type of chest, popular in the Italian Renaissance, resembling antique sarcophagi; decoration attributed to Bartolomeo Ammanati’s workshop.

Cassapanca chest bench
Cassapanca chest bench

CASSAPANCA CHEST BENCH –  Italy, Florence, 2nd half of the 16th c. The old Polish name for this piece of furniture, ‘the lift-up bench’, describes its functions as a chest and a bench. Particularly notable is the mannerist sculpted decoration, presenting e.g. ‘savages’ in Indian headdress - exotic motifs alluding to the New World.

Table
Table

TABLE France, Ile-de-France, 2nd half of the 16th c. An example of à la DuCerceau table, which owes its form and decorative motifs to this artist’s designs. Considered real works of art of small architecture, these tables are characterised by sliding tops and richly ornamented supports, held together with an elaborate open-work crosspiece.

Armchair
Armchair

ARMCHAIR. Italy, Venice, Andrea Brustolon’s school (1662-1732), c. 1700. A beautiful, highly artistic piece of furniture with the characteristic features of the Andrea Brustolon school, a well-known and appreciated late Baroque sculptor and woodcarver, who worked primarily in Venice and his native Belluno. One of the three armchairs of this type in the Wawel collection.

Linen press
Linen press

LINEN PRESS. Poland, Gdańsk, c. 1700. Table-linen presses are of particular importance as examples of Gdańsk richly decorated functional furniture. They are in the form of a table on which the main part – the press – is placed. It is regulated by a large screw, framed by spiral columns. The sculpted figures at the top are personifications of Faith and Hope.

Stanisława Link-Lenczowska