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06.09-27.11.2022 ELECTED KINGS – THE WETTINS

The Graphic Arts Room of the Princes Czartoryski Museum presents a new set of etchings from its collections. These portraits and illustrations of various events and ceremonies are associated with the reign of the elected kings of Poland, the Wettin dynasty. The works presented were created by
outstanding artists of the 17th and 18th centuries, including Dutch, Italian, and Germain artists, including from the Augsburg school.

At the end of the 17th century, etchings presenting important historical events were quite popular. Christoph Weigel issued an entire series of such prints, not all of which have survived in complete form. Among the events recorded were the birth of Frederick August, son of the Elector of Saxony, Frederick August I (1696) and a scene of the coronation of the Elector as King of Poland, Augustus II the Strong (1697). Later there are depictions of the coronation of the barely 15-year-old Charles XII, king of Sweden. There is a beautiful portrait of Augustus II with a scene of a battle at Kalisz, which by using attributes and symbols around the image presents the ruler as a just, wise, brave, courageous and victorious king. The portrait was made after the abdication of the king which had been forced by the terms of the peace treaty when the Swedes invaded Saxony. Augustus II was the loser in the |Great Northern War (1700–1721), which he had started himself. His first victory at Kalisz (1706) did not change the situation; the battle was fought after the peace negotiations at Altranstädt and Augustus was forced to apologise for it. In 1709, Augustus II Wettin regained the Polish crown, helped by Peter I, Tsar of Russia. Christiane Eberhardine, the wife of Augustus II, was never crowned in Poland and never visited the country of which she was the titular queen. In 1711, the 15-year-old Frederick August II (later to become Augustus III) set off on a grand tour of Europe. He visited Venice three times, admiring the beautiful ceremonies and regattas. In 1716 at a regatta organised in his honour, a specially built 10-oar  peòta symbolising China took part. An engraving by Zucchi gives testament to the glorious decoration of this large, prestigious craft. Returning to his travels, prince Frederick August had by now become a Catholic, and was engaged to Maria Josepha of Austria, the daughter of the Holy Roman Emperor Joseph I, after his marriage receiving the Order of the Golden Fleece. Very rare engravings show the decorations of the Basilica of St Clement in Rome during the funeral rites held for Augustus II. Previously they were considered separate graphics arising at separate dates. During the preparation of this exhibition, it was established that they originate from a special occasion volume published by Giovanni Maria Salvioni. Augustus III Wettin, made king under the pressure of Russian armed forces, rarely visited Poland, a country which he ruled to 30 years. Polonus, an allegorical portrait of the ruler and his entourage with various personifications situated around him, is the image of a Polish monarch. Apart from the 7-year occupation of Saxony by Prussian armies, he spent 24 months in total in he Republic of Poland. He most often made appearances in Wschów, from where he could quickly escape to Dresden. A view of Dresden and the bridge on the Elbe also appears in an equestrian portrait of the king. During the reign of Augustus III, many foreign-born artists arrived in Dresden, impacting tendencies in the development of art there. A representational portrait of Maria Josepha, the last queen to be crowned in Poland, demonstrated that using graphics, highly painterly effects can be achieved. Frederick Christian, the oldest son of Augustus III, became the Elector of Saxony on the death of his father but died soon after and thus was unable to pursue election as king in Poland;  he did however manage to establish the Academy of Fine Arts in Dresden. While applying for acceptance into this Academy, Giuseppe Canale created a graphic replica of a pastel self-portrait of Maria Antonia, the wife of the Elector.

Barbara König

MNK Czartoryski Museum

ul. Pijarska 15, 31-015 Kraków
  • Monday: CLOSED
  • Tuesday - Sunday: 10.00-18.00
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