Xawery Dunikowski Museum of Sculpture

The Xawery Dunikowski Museum of Sculpture is a division of the National Museum in Warsaw, located in Królikarnia, the rabbit house, where I prowled the outdoor sculptures a few posts ago. For the first time in Poland I encounter a serious ban on photography. It goes without saying that the museum and its contents are a feast for the forbidden camera. The circular room soars up into the dome, with wreaths and pilasters and eagles ringing it. The sculptures are superbly displayed: Dunikowskis paired with Rodins. I suspect Rodin is behind the no-photos rule.

The inability to photograph means my eyes and brain have to do the looking work, which is not a bad thing. I puzzle over the nature of sculpture and my preference for Rodin over Dunikowski, and I breathe in images in a way that makes them stick. 

The exhibition is called Visions of women, and I’m greeted, under the dome, by three life size bronze figures, pregnant, inward looking and beautifully grouped, created by Dunikowski in 1906 and my favourites amongst his work. On the wall in the first gallery are thirteen plaster women’s heads, again about life sized, with blank eyes and looming necks, a history of headgear rather than images of women. I begin to realize that my problem with Dunikowski is the featureless eyes, pupil free and staring. Rodin’s eyes, despite their lack of detail, don’t have this ocular blankness. Dunikowski’s cement Eve is merely coy, Rodin’s bronze a complex and paradoxical representation of power and shame. Or is my view being shaped by fame and prior knowledge?

I like the manageability of this exhibition: five rooms, each with a different theme, and only a few pieces in each room. I like the variety of materials – marble, plaster, terracotta, cement, gilded and polychromed wood, bronze, even paint and paper. I like the pairings, beautifully captured in the publicity image – Rodin’s terracotta girl with the flowery hat becoming Dunikowski’s terracotta portrait of a cousin. In the end, I even appreciate the photo-ban.

About morselsandscraps

A retired Australian who spends a lot of time in Warsaw, and blogs as a way of life.
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18 Responses to Xawery Dunikowski Museum of Sculpture

  1. Tish Farrell says:

    You are right. It is good to see without a camera. It takes much application though, and memory space 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Heyjude says:

    Sometimes I think it is a relief not to use the camera. Although photo bans inside NT houses is now practically lifted, I rarely take indoor photos. Not only do they not come out so well in the poor light (deliberately so as not to damage fabrics and furnishings), it allows me to cast my eyes around a room rather than focus on individual spots and absorb the atmosphere. I’m not sure this is making sense, but I hope you know what I mean. And one thing occurred to me when I saw this title, you really ought to do the A-Z April challenge next year, you have the most amazing words to use! Happy weekend – I’m hoping for some DRY weather so I can get out for a walk. Maybe I need to become less of a fair-weather walker now I have moved to the damp county.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Of course you’re making sense. The camera is a great recorder, but it can also be a distancer and a lazy-maker. One of my most memorable camera-free experiences was a concert in a castle in western Poland – I can still see the ivy covered walls; and the pianist putting his rose between his teeth; and hear the music in rehearsal as we walked up a large-scale flight of wooden stairs. I did a lot of atmosphere absorbing.

      As for A-Z, that’s a thought – a good way to encapsulate a year in Poland, from the distance of next April. No Y though.

      I like rainy walks, but there’s the problem of camera-care.

      Have a great weekend too.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Sue says:

    You have made plenty of sense, Jude! We tend to rush too much in the modern world, it’s good to take in our surroundings properly at times…. As for the damp county, I would have thought that was Shropshire!!


  4. Sue says:

    Well penned, Meg…I love reding your measured thoughts on what you observe….


  5. findingnyc says:

    It sounds like a great exhibition. It can be frustrating to come across a place where photos aren’t allowed, but it really is true that you can then concentrate on what you are seeing in a different way.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Rosemary Barnard says:

    No photography was the norm everywhere I went in Europe, with very few exceptions. Even then, it was no flash photography. So I am surprised that you have been allowed to photograph so many interiors in Poland. The Rodin Museum in Paris did not disappoint regardless of any bans on inside photography (I can’t remember whether there were any) as outside there was a whole sculpture garden full of Rodin’s work, including the famous “Burghers of Calais” and “The Thinker”. Plus there were plenty of postcards available for sale.


    • I certainly expected no photography to be the norm here, but it absolutely hasn’t been. No flash, yes, but I never use flash anyway. But also no postcards, and they are limited anyway because they never see quite what you see. I did buy a booklet about this exhibition, but its photos aren’t a patch on what mine would’ve been!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Rosemary Barnard says:

    We always thought that the prohibition on photography was partly a response to commercial opportunities, when postcards and booklets were available in attached retail outlets.


  8. restlessjo says:

    Rodin every time for me, based on what I can see and hear. 🙂 I quite like using my imagination sometimes, and you do make it easy.


  9. Lucid Gypsy says:

    It’s strange, I tend to think that walking with a camera slows my pace quite nicely, but without one I’d have to walk even slower if I wanted to absorb and remember anything. Actually I don’t remember anything these days!
    I’d never heard of Dunikowski, so I googled and like you I far prefer Rodin, way more human.


    • (Did you see the update on the woman with the shawl? Have a look at the comment from findingnyc.)

      You’re a great reader. Fancy going to Dunikowski. I didn’t even think of doing that and purloining images. I’m glad you agree with my assessment – I’m always a bit uncertain critiquing art!


  10. Suzanne says:

    Ooh – I see what you mean about those eyes. They are quite soul-less and rather disconcerting. Personally I say that Rodin is the stronger sculptor and agree with your conclusion.


  11. Pingback: Heads | 12monthsinwarsaw

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