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Sculpture

Although small in size, the Wawel Royal Castle’s sculpture collection encompasses objects from antiquity through the early 20th century. Works by Polish, German, and Austrian sculptors are especially well represented. A unique and historically significant ensemble of 30 carvings of human heads is on view in the coffered ceiling of the Envoys’ Hall. The ensemble, which originally numbered 194 heads, was created in the workshop of Sebastian Tauerbach and installed in the castle in about 1540. In the mid-1920s Polish sculptor Xavery Dunikowski made a group of heads reminiscent of the 16th-century originals, which he donated to the Wawel Castle along with a number of other sculptures.

A valuable collection of Late-Gothic Polish ecclesiastical sculptures dating from the 15th through 16th centuries is exhibited in the Castle of Pieskowa Skała, a branch of the Wawel museum.

Madonna and Child.
Madonna and Child.

Madonna and Child.

Polish, 3rd quarter 15th c., limewood, originally polychromed.

 

Woman with a Band over Her Mouth.
Woman with a Band over Her Mouth.

Woman with a Band over Her Mouth.

Poland, Cracow, Sebastian Tauerbach (d. 1552) or Hans Snycerz (Hans the Woodcarver; d. 1545), before 1540, polychromed limewood.

One of the sculptures from the ceiling of the Envoys’ Hall in the Wawel Castle. The coffered ceiling, originally decorated with 194 carvings of human heads, royal coats of arms, and gilded wooden rosettes, was completed by Sebastian Tauerbach and his assistants in 1540. In the early 19th century, it was destroyed by Austrian troops. The 30 surviving heads, which are installed in Hall’s reconstructed coffered ceiling, were saved by Princess Izabela Czartoryska.

Bust of John III Sobieski.
Bust of John III Sobieski.

Bust of John III Sobieski.
Poland, Giacomo Monaldi (ca. 1730–1798), ca. 1783, Carrara marble.
The sculpture was commissioned to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the victory of the European coalition force under the command of the Polish king over the Ottoman Turks at Vienna. (From the collection of Roman Potocki; previously in the collection of the Mniszech family housed in their palace in Wiśniowiec.)

Head of Adam Mickiewicz.
Head of Adam Mickiewicz.

Head of Adam Mickiewicz.

Xawery Dunikowski (1875–1964), 1926–27, polychromed limewood.

As part of the restoration of the Envoys’ Hall, Dunikowski was commissioned to create 160 wooden heads to complement the 30 extant original carvings. Although he never completed the commission, a collection of 12 heads, illustrative of the artist’s exceptional ability to capture expressions and states of mind, has survived.

The March to Wawel.
The March to Wawel.

The March to Wawel.

Poland, Wacław Szymanowski (1859–1930), 1911–12. Bronze; cast, patinated.

The sculpture is a model for a never-realized monumental composition. Szymanowski had intended for his sculpture to close off the Arcaded Courtyard from the west. The bronze represents a procession of Polish monarchs and other historical as well as allegorical figures.

Kazimierz Kuczman