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2004 | 29 | 203-239

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Antiquity in Warsaw's Królikarnia. Architecture and artistic collections


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The palace and garden complex of Warsaw's Królikarnia, built for an influential member of the Royal Court - count Karol Tomatis - is recognized as one of the most important works of Polish classicist architecture, erected during the reign of King Stanislaw August Poniatowski. A characteristic Palladio's profile of the palace and the building of the kitchen in form of a Roman tomb of Caecilia Metella, built according to a design by Domenico Merlini - an architect connected with the King - are commonly recognized as the symbols of the residence. During over two hundred years of its history Królikarnia belonged in turn to the aristocratic families of: Tomatis, Radziwill and Puslowski. Inside the palace its owners gathered valuable artistic collections.The artistic heritage of Antiquity influence of which - direct or through the Palladian's tradition - could be traced in the layout of the palace and garden complex, was reflected mainly in the architecture of the kitchen building, and also in the ancient or ancient-like decoration of both the kitchen and palace.The building of the kitchen in Królikarnia, modelled on the tomb of Caecilia Metella, is a unique work of architecture and has no equal predecessors in the architecture of European Classicism. The building offered architects a model worth emulating, although it was its original location and surprising idea of placing the kitchen in an ancient tomb that made this building so popular in Poland and even created a trend toward imitation of its Roman prototype. Anyway, only about few ancient buildings there could be said - like in the case of the Caecilia Metella Tomb - that they made a career in the Polish architecture. In no other country had the architecture of 'Capo di bove' so many imitations.In 1816 Królikarnia was chosen as the main residence, in which they wanted to spend the last years of their life, by Michal Hieronim Radziwill and Helena from the Przezdziecki family, the owners of Nieborów and Arkadia. They brought to the new place their impressive artistic collections gathered previously - in which the Antiquity occupied a special position - as well as fitting the palace with new objects making up a set of a specific decorative and symbolic significance including the replicas and imitations of the ancient sculptures. After the death of the last governor (wojewoda) of Vilnius, Królikarnia became for his heirs a place of gathering the precious Radziwill's collections, including the part of the ancient or ancient-like furnishing of Arkadia. The activity in Królikarnia of Alexandra Radziwill nee Stecka who ordered to place on the kitchen building the reduced inscription from the tomb of Caecilia Metella directly referred not only to the ancient model but also to the tradition and history of Królikarnia and to life and performance of Helena Radziwill. 22 Illustrations.






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  • P. Jaworski, Instytut Archeologii, Uniwersytet Warszawski, ul. Zwirki i Wigury 97/99, 02-089 Warszawa, Poland


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