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Wawel Royal Castle - HOME

Wawel Royal Castle
State Art Collection

31-001 Kraków, Wawel 5

(+48 12) 422-51-55, 422-61-21

Tourist Information:
(+48 12) 422 51 55
ext. 219

Reservations and Guide Service:
(+48 12)
422 16 97

Press contact:
(+48 12) 422 51 55
ext. 380, 341


The collection of textiles, with about 730 items, is one of the most important at Wawel because of the items’ age and their connection with the royal residence. It includes king Sigismund Augustus’s (1520-1572) tapestries, commissioned by him in Brussels in the years 1550-1560. This is the largest collection of tapestries ever commissioned by one ruler (136 items have survived, including tapestries with Biblical scenes, animals, the king’s monograms against the backdrop of ornaments (named ‘grotesque’), and with the coats of arms of Poland and Lithuania. From the end of the 16th c. the collection belonged to the nation and was part of the Royal Treasury. Looted in 1795 by the Russians, it was reclaimed in the years 1922-1924. Biblical tapestries are exhibited in rotation in the chambers on the second floor of the castle, and the tapestries with animals, as well as grotesques with monograms and coats of arms on both floors.
The collection of European tapestries from the 15th to the 18th c. consists of over 70 items. It was amassed in the interwar period and after the Second World War, and includes the gem of Burgundy textile art from around 1460 – Story of a Knight with a Swan tapestry, and Decius Mus’s Death tapestry according to P.P. Rubens, and two textiles from a series depicting the Trojan war (Brussels, c. 1660, Erasmus and Frans de Pannemaker’s workshop).
A collection of eastern tents, the largest in Europe (13 tents, including 5 complete and fragments of 8 others) includes trophies won at Vienna on 12 September 1683 by Jan III Sobieski’s troops, and also works obtained by peaceful means in the 17th and 18th c., at a time of increased contact between the Polish Republic and the countries of the Muslim orient. The East is also represented in the Wawel collection by a very valuable Persian carpet from Safavid times, known as the Kraków-Paris carpet (2nd quarter of the 16th c.), 17th-c. Turkish banners won at Vienna (5 items) and one from the 19th c. There is also a collection of Turkish, Caucasian and Persian carpets and wall hangings (65 items) gathered by Włodzimierz and Jerzy Kulczycki in Lvov.
A historic collection of vexiliana (50 items) includes the wife of Sigismund Augustus, Catherine of Austria’s banner from 1553, the standard of Archduke Maximilian’s Silesian troops (1587), lost by him at Byczyna, King Charles X Gustav’s pennant, won at Rudnik (1656), and standards of noblemen’s mercenary forces from the 18th c.
Among silk and embroidered textiles of royal origin there are two noteworthy items: the gown of a knight of the Order of the Holy Ghost presented to Jan III Sobieski by Louis XIV (1676), Pope’s headwear– a gift from Innocent XI to the king (1684), and a wall hanging with the coats of arms of queen Ludovica Maria Gonzaga (mid 17th c.)
Polish artistic workmanship is documented by the collection of kaftan sashes (40 items) from manufactories in  

Słuck, Kobyłka, Lipkowo, Grodno and Kraków; and a small collection of wall hangings (10 items) from the Potocki manufactory in Buczacz (post 1860 – 1939), and also tapestries from various centres (18th -20th c.) Valuable items in this group are knotted tapestries from the 18th c. (5 items) from the magnate manufactories of the Potocki and Ogiński families.

Zoom in - "Story of a Knight with a Swan"  tapestry.
"Story of a Knight with a Swan" tapestry.
STORY OF A KNIGHT WITH A SWAN  TAPESTRY. Tournai, c. 1460, Pasquier Grenier’s workshop.
Wool, silk, silver thread. Five scenes from a medieval poem about Gotfryd de Bouillon’s legendary ancestor. The last episode portrays historic figures from the Burgundy court: Prince Philip the Good, his wife Isabella of Portugal and his son Charles the Bold. Another tapestry from this series is in the Museum für Angewandte Kunst in Vienna. The oldest tapestry in the Polish collection.
Zoom in - "Paradise Bliss" tapestry.
"Paradise Bliss" tapestry.
PARADISE BLISS TAPESTRY, Brussels, c. 1550, based on Michiel Coxcie’s sketch (1499-1592), Jan de Kempeneer’s workshop. Wool, silk, gold and silver thread. From King Sigismund Augustus’s collection. The composition, belonging to the ‘History of the First Parents’ series presents seven scenes from the history of the creation and the fall of the First Parents simultaneously – one of Coxcien’s most beautiful creations, inspired by Roman art of Rafael’s school.
Zoom in - Verdure tapestry.
Verdure tapestry.
VERDURE TAPESTRY An Otter with a fish in its mouth. Brussels, c. 1555, based on the sketch of an Antwerp artist from the Pieter Coeck van Aelst’s school, Jan van Tieghem’s workshop. Wool, silk, gold and silver thread. From king Sigismund Augustus’s collection.
Zoom in - Tapestry with the coats of arms of Poland and Lithuania and a figure of Ceres.
Tapestry with the coats of arms of Poland and Lithuania and a figure of Ceres.
TAPESTRY WITH THE COATS OF ARMS OF POLAND AND LITHUANIA AND A FIGURE OF CERES. Brussels, c. 1555, based on the sketch of an Antwerp artist from the school of Frans Floris and Cornelis Bos, Jan van Tieghem’s workshop. Wool, silk, gold and silver thread. From king Sigismund Augustus’s collection.
Zoom in - Tapestry with Shield-Bearing Satyrs.
Tapestry with Shield-Bearing Satyrs.
TAPESTRY WITH SHIELD-BEARING SATYRS. Brussels, c. 1555, based on the sketch of an Antwerp artist from the school of Frans Floris and Cornelis Bos, signatures of two unidentified workshops. Wool, silk, gold and silver thread. From king Sigismund Augustus’s collection. One of a group of 13 door hangings with the royal monogram S.A. (Sigismund Augustus) against a grotesque.
Zoom in - Court banner.
Court banner.
COURT BANNER. Poland, 1553. Silk, tempera, gold and silver. Most probably commissioned for the coronation of Sigismund Augustus’s wife – Catherine of Austria (30 July 1553). The oldest existing banner with an insignia function. The Kingdom’s eagle with the Austrian coat of arms on its chest, is surrounded by a wreath of 22 burghers’ coats of arms. From the Royal Treasury, from 1796 in Tadeusz Czacki’s collection, then that of Izabela Czartoryska in Puławy, in the years 1848-1926 in Russia – reclaimed in 1926.
Zoom in - Wall hanging with Ludovica Maria Gonzaga’s coats of arms.
Wall hanging with Ludovica Maria Gonzaga’s coats of arms.
WALL HANGING WITH LUDOVICA MARIA GONZAGA’S COATS OF ARMS. (1610-1667). France or Poland, mid 17th c. Velvet, gold, silk and silver thread. The complex coat of arms of the queen, the wife of two Vasas – Ladislaus IV and  John Casimir, is placed against the velours de Gênes background.
Zoom in - Decius Mus’s Death tapestry.
Decius Mus’s Death tapestry.
DECIUS MUS’S DEATH TAPESTRY. Brussels, c. 1650, based on Peter  Paul Rubens’s design, with the signature of Frans van den Hecke’s workshop. One of a series of tapestries on the history of the heroic Roman leader.
Zoom in - Gown of a Knight of the Order of the Holy Ghost.
Gown of a Knight of the Order of the Holy Ghost.
MANTLE OF A KNIGHT OF THE ORDER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT. France, Paris, 1675-1676. Velvet, grosgrain, silk, gold and silver thread. Commissioned by king Louis XIV of France, The Great Master of the Order, and presented by him to king Jan III Sobieski, together with other order insignia, on 30 November 1676 in Żółkiew. In the years 1740-1812 in the Radziwiłł collection in Nieśwież. Taken to Russia in 1812; reclaimed from the Hermitage in 1924.
Zoom in - Kraków-Paris carpet.
Kraków-Paris carpet.
KRAKÓW-PARIS CARPET, Persia, Tebriz, 2nd quarter of the 16th c. Wool, silk. Half of a medallion carpet representing ‘paradise’, a product of the royal manufactories from the times of shah Tahmasp (1524-1576). Won at Vienna in 1683 by Wawrzyniec Wodzicki; donated to Wawel cathedral by his grandson Eliasz in 1785. The other half of the carpet is in the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris.
Zoom in - Oval tent with two masts.
Oval tent with two masts.
OVAL TENT WITH TWO MASTS. Turkey, 1st half of the 17th c. Cotton, satin, gilt leather. Won at Vienna in 1683; in. 1728 it was taken to Dresden by August II. Bought from the Vettin collection and donated to Wawel by Szymon Szwarc in 1934. One of the most exquisite works of Turkish tent making.
Zoom in - Inscription banner.
Inscription banner.
INSCRIPTION BANNER, Turkey, Istanbul (?), 1st half of the 17th c. Silk, gold, silver and silk thread. Won at Vienna in 1683 and offered by Jan III Sobieski as a votive offering at St. Stanislaus’s altar  in Wawel cathedral (24 December 1683). In 1803 it was deposited in the Czartoryski collection in Puławy, in 1848 it was taken to Russia and in 1924 it was reclaimed from the Hermitage.
Zoom in - Arcaded wall hanging.
Arcaded wall hanging.
ARCADED WALL HANGING. Turkey, 1st half of the 17th c. Damask, silk brocade, silk and gold thread. According to tradition won at Vienna in 1683 by one of the ancestors of its last owner, Franciszek Ksawery Pusłowski (1874-1967). It can be seen in Maria Pusłowska’s portrait from 1870, by Jan Matejko. One of the few complete objects of its kind which has survived in its original form.
Zoom in - Uszak medallion carpet.
Uszak medallion carpet.
USZAK MEDALLION CARPET. Turkey (Anatolia) or Poland, 1st quarter of the 17th c. Wool. On the carpet there is a shield with the coats of arms of Ogończyk, Szreniawa, Bogoria, Odrowąż and the letters CW, indicating the commissioner, Krzysztof Wiesiołowski (died 1637), who was the Great Lithuanian Marshall from 1635. The carpet could have been made in Turkey (using a design of the coat of arms supplied by the client), or in the estate of  the Wiesiołowski family in Lithuania or Polesie. An identical item can be found in the Berlin Islamisches Museum.
Magdalena Piwocka