The artefacts exhibited present a particular aspect of Polish heritage and artistic taste, shaped as a result of military and trade contacts with Near East countries. Thanks to these contacts, Poland was permeated by art works from Turkey, the Crimea, the Caucasus and Iran - carpets, silks, tapestries, weapons and armoury, ceremonial horse saddles and equestrian equipment which eventually became items of everyday and ceremonial use by noblemen and the royal court.
The most essential part of the exhibition, at present limited to the first floor of the castle’s western wing, comprises trophies and artefacts connected with the Vienna campaign (12.09.1683), in which the Polish army commanded by John III Sobieski gained famous victory over the Turkish army commanded by Kara Mustapha.
Captured during the Vienna Campaign, the Cracow-Paris carpet (second quarter of the 16th century) is one of the most important works of the Persian Renaissance carpet weaving in world collections. This is but one half of the object, the other half is at present displayed in the Musee des Arts Decoratifs in Paris. It portrays the Garden of Eden, and it was given as a votive to Wawel Cathedral. It is surrounded by fragments of tent walls and a roof (fragments of two different objects from the turn of the 18th century) which belong to the Wawel collection of oriental tents.
The Room with banners
This room could be called The Pantheon of Viennese Victory. It includes one of the most valuable sets of objects in the Wawel collection – four Turkish banners captured during the campaign of 1683, among them a banner captured in the battle at Parkany (October 9th), and a banner dated 1819, designed in accordance with the classical rules of Ottoman banner symbolism from the 17th century.
Among the trophies, especially noteworthy is a horse-tail ensign – a sign of military rank (that of vizier) and the legendary sabre of Kara Mustapha, nowadays without its precious frame, once dispatched along with the banner from Parkany by King John III Sobieski to the Marian sanctuary in Loreto. On pedestals and in show-cases there is Turkish horse armour from the 16th century, a collection of Turkish and Persian sabres from the 17th and 18th centuries, and Turkish and Caucasian prayer-rugs from the 18th and 19th centuries from the Jerzy and Wlodzimierz Kulczycki collection in Lvov.
The Room with Chinese vases
A separate part of the exhibition is devoted to Far East ceramics. On pedestals there is a collection of large Chinese vases from the 17th and 18th centuries, with rich floral decoration, painted with cobalt or multicoloured, and some in relief. Among them is a vase for storing ginger root, and a baluster vessel decorated with Buddhist depiction of ‘the eight precious objects’ – symbols of prosperity. In the glass-case there are figurines of deities, and tea-cups and kettles made of various materials: stoneware, porcelain or steatite (a semi-precious stone).
Over the Berrecci Gate there is a collection of Japanese porcelain, mainly of the Imari type (18th century), a gift from Tsarina Catharine II to the Prussian Prince Henry Hohenzollern, which became the property of the Radziwiłł and Potocki families by way of inheritance.