Artistic collections

It is nor widely known that the Museum of Mielżyńscy functioned in the Library of the Poznań Society of Friends and Sciences. The Museum was established before the Museum of Fine Arts in Warsaw and before the Museum of Fine Arts in Cracow. Moreover, in the seventies of the 19th century it was the richest public museum on Polish land.[1] In 1919 the Society’s collections became the base of the Museum of Great Poland (the later National Museum) in Poznań and they determine its strong position among museums until these days.

The source of the Society’s artistic collections should be found in the Museum of Polish and Slavic Antiquities located in the Grand Duchy of Poznań and established beside the Society in 1857 together with the Natural History’s Study and with the Library. The romantic concept of the collections was at first based on the “national archeology”, national monuments, works of art and decorative arts. Its base became remains of collections of the Society of Antiquities Collectors in Szamotuły.

A critical moment for the Museum was buying by Seweryn Mielżyński in 1870 an excellent collection of Polish paintings and graphics from Edwars Rastawiecki. A short time later Mielżyński decided to donate to the Society his private „Galeria Miłosławska” (English: the Miłosław Gallery) containing about 170 pictures of European Schools. It was given on the legal validity of the will of this prominent patron after his death in 1872. Short afterwards other inhabitants of Great Poland took an example from Mielżyński, which enriched the Society with more donations.

In 1881 “Galeria artystów i rzeczy polskich” (English: the Gallery of Polish artists and works of art) was opened in the Society’s building which had been constructed a short time before. It was put in an especially arranged room with modern top – lighting. In 1882 there took place an inauguration of few next departments of the Museum containing European paintings disposed in accordance with national schools. In 1888 a printed catalogue of collections originating from Miłosław was published. In 1883 the Historical Monuments Department was opened. This had a great symbolic meaning as the department was the center which maintained and cultivated patriotic tradition in the face of the intensified Prussian invader’s germanization. Finally, in 1885 the Kraszewski’s Study was rendered accessible. It could be done thank to the donation which this writer received in Cracow on the occasion of his fiftieth anniversary of writing.

The Society’s collections were temporarily presented also out of its residence, f. ex. during the great exhibition in Berlin in 1880. A spectacular success of the Museum was its participation in the exhibition of native art of the 18th and the 19th century, which took place in Lvov.

When Bolesław Erzepki took a post of the Museum conservator some ambitious ventures began. Firstly, a two-volume catalogue of European paintings was elaborated and published in two linguistic versions – Polish and German. In view of the dynamic extension of artistic, historical and library collections, at the turn of the 19th and 20th century, there appeared an idea of expansion of the building of the Library. The result of it was a monumental building designed by a famous architect – Roger Sławski. A romantic spacious yard was decorated with old architectural elements of old Poznań buildings, with plaques and with statue of Adam Mickiewicz. All those filled the Society’s residence with specific, reflective atmosphere. The art gallery was located in spacious and well lightened rooms. Subordination to the latest trends in world museums was visible in the arrangement of the works of arts. European compositions were rearranged in accordance with schools while polonica were classified chronologically. A separate place took works of Norblin and his imitators and also concentrated in a special “salon” compositions of Grassi, Lampi and Wojniakowski.

 

In 1915 the management of the Gallery was taken by a priest dr Szczęsny Detloff. In spite of the wartime he organized exhibitions: Wystawa Kościuszkowska (the Kościuszko’s Exhibition) and a presentation of Polish painting (containing many composition of Józef Brandt and of Alfred Wierusz – Kowalski). When Poland regained independence the Society decided to hand over in escrow the most precious objects of the collection to the recently founded Museum of Great Poland. This act was justified by the lack of proper funds and staff to maintain and expose collections and also by the Ministerial pressure. Transferring of the Society’s collections to the Museum of Great Poland was a turning point in the history of the Museum, as it enriched it with an invaluable store of prominent works, especially in Polish and foreign paintings. In the Society’s residence remained some paintings, sculptures, numismatics and also rich and significantly valuable collection of Polish and European graphics. The graphics were often lent by the Society to exhibitions organized all over the country.

The Second World War influenced negatively the Society’s artistic collections. Their improper maintenance or purposive destroying or removal out of Poznań or to Germany caused catastrophic loss of 130 paintings of foreign schools (like Rubens school’s works and Lorenzo di Credi’s composition), of 219 Polish paintings (like works of: Bacciarelli, Norblin, Orłowski, Gerson, Brandt and Malczewski), and of about 60% of pictures and graphics and of more than a half of the collection of the decorative art.  

After the War’s end there appeared a difficult task of rebuilding the Society’s property and structure. Therefore, it was necessary to accept the fact that the artistic collections of the Society were permanently connected to National Museum. The result of this is that the present National Museum in Poznań is proud to be a continuer and successor of the hundred-years-old museum tradition of the oldest in Poznań Museum named after Mielżyńscy.

 

Sacra Conversazione, Palma Vecchio (Jacopo Negretti), tempera on panel, circa 1516-1518 (from the Poznań Society’s of Friends of Sciences collections, at present deposit of the National Museum of Poznań)

Decapitation of Saint Jacob, Veit Stoss, copperplate engraving, circa 1504 (from the Poznań Society’s of Friends of Sciences collections, at present deposit of the National Museum of Poznań)

Stained glass with Crucifixion scene, the workshop of Lesser Poland, the end of 18th century (from the Poznań Society’s of Friends of Sciences collections, at present deposit of the National Museum of Poznań)

Hercules at Omphale, Lucas Cranach the Elder, oil on panel, after 1537, (from the Poznań Society’s of Friends of Sciences collections, at present deposit of the National Museum of Poznań)

Minerva, Hendrick Goltzius, copperplate engraving, 1596, (from the Poznań Society’s of Friends of Sciences collections, at present deposit of the National Museum of Poznań)

Stanisław II August Poniatowski’s portrait, Marcello Baccierelli, oil on canvas, circa 1789, (from the Poznań Society’s of Friends of Sciences collections, at present deposit of the National Museum of Poznań)

The Jan Henryk Dąbrowski’s entry to Poznań, Jan Gładysz, 1809 (?),(from the Poznań Society’s of Friends of Sciences collections, at present deposit of the National Museum of Poznań)

The establishment of the Lubrański Academy’s in Poznań, Jan Mateyko, oil on canvas, 1886, (from the Poznań Society’s of Friends of Sciences collections, at present deposit of the National Museum of Poznań)

Postillion on a horse, Piotr Michałowski, pencil and aquarelle on paper, 1832-1837 (?),(from the Poznań Society’s of Friends of Sciences collections, at present deposit of the National Museum of Poznań)

Diana and Callisto – draft, Peter Paul Rubens, oil on panel, before 1640, (from the Poznań Society’s of Friends of Sciences collections, at present deposit of the National Museum of Poznań)

A young man’s portrait, the Portrait’s of Dukes’ Master (Polish: Mistrz Portretów Książęcych), oil on panel, 16th century (from the Poznań Society’s of Friends of Sciences collections, at present deposit of the National Museum of Poznań)

Eve, Franciszek Flaum, gypsum, before 1917, (from the Poznań Society’s of Friends of Sciences collections, at present deposit of the National Museum of Poznań)

All photographs: Muzeum Narodowe w Poznaniu [The National Museum, Poznań]

 

[1] W. Suchocki, Przedmowa [w:] Ars una species mille. 150 dzieł na 150-lecie Muzeum Narodowego w Poznaniu ze zbiorów Poznańskiego Towarzystwa Przyjaciół Nauk, red. D. Suchockiej, Muzeum Narodowe w Poznaniu, Poznań 2007, s. 5.

[2] P. Michałowski, Zbiory artystyczne Poznańskiego Towarzystwa Przyjaciół Nauk [w:] Ars una species mille. 150 dzieł na 150-lecie Muzeum Narodowego w Poznaniu ze zbiorów Poznańskiego Towarzystwa Przyjaciół Nauk, red. D. Suchockiej, Muzeum Narodowe w Poznaniu, Poznań 2007, s. 17.