Exploring Poland: The Palace of Wilanów in Warsaw

The time between each new post has definitely become longer, so I will endeavor to make it shorter in the coming weeks!

It’s always interesting coming back to old haunts after years, especially when you seem to link those haunts to your development creatively. Warsaw is so different from London and Durham- nothing seems to have changed in this city, like the Wilanów Palace, and yet there are small innovative improvements everywhere, like the numerous cafe’s expanding on Nowy Świat (as seen on my Instagram) to people watch and sip coffee. You know you’re a bit crazy over colour when you’re happy your table spread is colour-coordinated with your bag…

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Anyway, back to the palace. Created in response to the growing popularity of summer residences in the upper classes of XVII century Poland, it was first built as a small residence for King Jan the III by Augustine Locci the Younger. It only grew to its current fame through the expansions that started in 1680 and would carry on until the death of the King in 1696. The popular concept of  the French ‘entre cour et jardin’ was the main inspiration for the expansion works, as well as the summer residence at the time in Italy. Poland was heavily influenced by more classical ideals, both in the form and the decoration of the Palace, and was on par with the trends of the era elsewhere. While this may be a bit of a tedious history lesson, it stands out very much on the pictures, which may otherwise bring to mind other influences…

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The smell of roses was quite heady and overpowering, so I went inside to cool off under the polished marbles ceilings and the noble busts of the previous owners of the Palace. Famous artworks and sculptural feats also featured heavily once you go into the gilded halls. Obviously, as is with most palaces created around the time, lighting was a bit of an issue, since the living quarters were usually devoid of many windows, with the decorators preferring to decorate as much of the walls inside with murals rather than letting the natural light in. The heavily embellished walls, ceilings, draperies and furniture spoke of wealth, and in the private quarters of the King and his Queen, the decorations were almost dripping off the walls.

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Walls lined with frescoes and serene paintings by local and more famous international artists like Rodin, whose work was kept in a separate room, all intertwined to keep this rich Rococo tapestry alive. Although this was not a long visit, and the English listening guide was seriously defective, the overall impression of the Palace and the gardens is that both are in perfect harmony. This could have been the overseas destination for Madame de Pompadour or Marie Antoinette, yet perhaps even more refined in taste than the Versailles counterpart. This visit made me realize that although the Palace of Versailles does make a huge impression on you because of its sheer size and expansive gilded walls in the Hall of Mirrors, there are smaller details here that are a joy to uncover. I personally liked the fact that I could notice everything in the room, from the four figure decorations in the corners of the ceiling, to the little details like the birds in this ‘trompe d’oeil’ inside dome decoration in the paintings room.

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While this may have been the first time I had visited the Palace, I do think a day is more than enough for a thorough visit, unless you are more interested in exploring the grounds, in which case I think that it can be longer. The intricacy of the architecture and interior design should be enough to entice you to visit while you are staying in Warsaw, since this monument to Polish architecture is only an hour ride by bus from Centrum. If it is more to your liking, you can also visit the Palace as part of a tour going around the famous monuments, buildings and museums of Warsaw.

 

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