If my last lot of sculptures frightened you, you might want to give this lot a miss. Scroll down quickly and you’ll come to an unscary palace!
Chunky sculpture, somewhere between heads and skulls, is my Sunday morning pleasure. They speak to me, these heads, sometimes through a sense of chaos within, occasionally with their calm. There is, to my initial delight, a catalogue in English, although the artsy English ends up being as incomprehensible as Polish: “Ellipsis” can be seen as a “linguistic phenomenon seen as an instance of detraction (deletion), being one of the three rhetoric operations (aside from abjection and permutation, ie addition and inversion) which are instrumental in breaking away from the “natural order in which a statement is made, giving it an artistic touch.”
Czełkowska’s biography on the same leaflet is an entirely different matter: her favourite sound is the screech of trams or the steel-cutting angle grinder; her makeup is impeccable and she wears sports shoes to be ready for action at a moment’s notice: she uses simple materials in her work – plaster, wood, bare canvas or rusty steel; she never writes down addresses or phone numbers because she knows she’ll remember the important ones. The biographer however loses me when she refers to “the scintillating interpretation” in the critique of her work.
This is the same gallery that exhibited Dunikowski and Rodin. It’s a branch of the National Museum of Warsaw, and focuses on sculpture, a small number of pieces at any one time.
That’s it for the sculptures. Now for the palace, Królikarnia Palace, built in the 1780s, situated along a part of the Wisła embankment cut by wooded ravines. At last I have a chance to photograph the central part of the palace under the spectacular dome, where the cat has taken up residence. Receptions in the palace were splendid and I joined the fashionable people of the past by walking through the grounds on a Sunday. This was where Kościusko had his headquarters during the insurrection against the Russians in 1794 – that Kościusko who gave his name to Australia’s highest mountain – during which it was seriously damaged.
A fire in 1879 burnt down the palace. It was rebuilt in one of the pioneering feats in the history of Polish architectural conservation, to be destroyed again at the beginning of the war in 1939, and rebuilt again in 1965, when it became an adjunct of the National Museum.
I sit for a while in the portico, looking out on toddlers playing on the grass and a young girl roller blading round and round the circular avenue, and then up to the high-wall decorations. When I see the word “books” (one Polish word I do recognise) I’m enticed into the cafe-bookshop where I find four books I must buy for the insatiable twins, one by Arnold Lobel in Polish, one in pictures, and two in English. I resist cake.
I discover that the building with its garland of bovine heads that charmed me on my first visit was the kitchen, a circular building modelled on a tomb in Rome and built before the residence itself. Later there was an underground passage connecting the kitchen with the residence. There were also a poultry house, a brewery, a brickyard, a mill and barns.
The history of the palace is a summary of the history of Warsaw, its aristocracy, its struggles for independence, its destruction by the Germans, and its stubborn rebuilding.
I owe this account of the history of the palace to “The book of Warsaw palaces” by Tadeusz Jaroszewski (thank you again Annette); and the information panel at the entrance to the grounds.