The palace on the island in Łazienki gardens began as a menagerie for the Mazovian princes and became the site of a 17th century baroque pavilion, which was in turn refashioned by architects, sculptors, and painters in the second half of the 18th century into the summer residence of the last king of Poland.
At the beginning of WW2 a lot of the treasures of the National Museum were stored in the underground warehouse there to protect them from savage bombardment. The Germans looted the palace, and in 1944 set fire to the interior. They drilled holes for explosives to demolish the whole building, but luckily they ran out of time to complete this barbarism. The restoration was carried out between 1945 and the 1960s under the auspices of the Warsaw Reconstruction Board.
Now the reconstructed palace is the Royal Łazienki Museum. It’s a pleasing size as palaces go. Inside there’s enough white to counter the necessary gold, and the parquet floors are stunning. I love the blue tiles in the bathing room, fireplaces supported by Cerberus and Pan, the painted wall panels, the white ceiling flowers, the marble stairs. And who can resist the glare of a lion doorknocker? And the unexpected sculpture of the Pan family, Mrs Pan and a couple of small Pans, one playing the pan pipes?
Near the dining room displaying the botanical dinner service are two figures, the female one wearing a simple white dress with a pink posy at the neckline; the male one in full paraphernalia, wearing the blue sash of the Order of the Elephant, Denmark’s most distinguished order, dating from the fifteenth century. I’m intrigued by an elephant in Norway: apparently the elephant represents chastity and piety.
I’m not a fan of the portraits of dignitaries. The only portrait that catches my eye is a rare one of a woman who actually looks human. However, I am intrigued by a painting of a room full of portraits – the artist, Gonzales Coques and others; the date, 1667-1706; the subject, the collector and his family in front of the display of his collection. This painting is on loan to the Royal Łazienki Museum from the a royal Cabinet of Painting in The Hague.
I walk through the palace in a leisurely way, delighted with the company of my Australian daughter. I, who usually prefer solitude.
For what caught my eye on a 2013 visit and to assess my photographic development since then, click here