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2004 | 45 | 45-59

Article title

THE 'VICTORY TEMPLE' - THE GENERAL J. H. DABROWSKI COLLECTION OF ARMS AND HISTORICAL SOUVENIRS ('Swiatynia Zwyciestwa' - kolekcja broni i historycznych pamiatek gen. Jana Henryka Dabrowskiego)


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General J. H. Dabrowski (1755-1818), outstanding military organiser, Napoleonic soldier, and author of the Polish Legions in Italy, was also one of greatest Polish collectors in the first quarter of the nineteenth century. The core of the Dabrowski collection was created during his military service in Dresden (1770s and 1780s), when his interests in literature and art were decidedly influenced by Captain Wallnus, an expert collector and art lover. Consequently, Dabrowski began amassing paintings associated with battle themes, portraits of famous commanders, old weapons, graphic art, maps and military plans. Thanks to the directives offered by Wallnus and a copious collection of antiques, paintings and weapons which he bequeathed to the general on his deathbed in 1784, the Dabrowski residence became a fashionable and highly esteemed salon. In 1792 his collection of maps and military plans totalled about 2 000 exhibits, and almost equalled that of King Stanislaw August Poniatowski. In 1792-1796 Dabrowski designed a new Warsaw residence situated near the Royal Castle, to which he transferred part of his Dresden collection. The years 1796-1806 signified a period of intensive endeavours associated with the creation and command over the Polish Legions in Italy. The Italian campaigns provided an excellent opportunity for obtaining valuable souvenirs for the future Victory Temple, which Dabrowski planned to establish in free Poland. In 1798 he managed to obtain in Loreto a Turkish banner kept in the local church and captured in 1683 by Jan III Sobieski at the battle of Parkany. In 1807 Dabrowski received a landed estate in Winnogora, a donation from the national estates of the Duchy of Warsaw. In intervals between successive military campaigns (1807, 1809, 1812-1813) he implemented his conception of a Victory Temple, and brought over his Warsaw and Milan collection; the largest hall in Winnogora palace served as an armoury. The painted decoration of the interiors of Winnogora palace and the collection programme are composed of three distinguishable ideological strata: 1. the cult of the great commanders, cherished by Dabrowski; 2. the legend of the Legions; 3. a sum of Dabrowski's conceptions - a great central shield with the coat of arms of the Commonwealth was to symbolise the homeland as an indivisible whole and its pre-partition power. General Dabrowski died in 1818, bequeathing his entire collection to the Warsaw Society of Friends of Sciences. In 1831 the Russian authorities transferred the collection to St. Petersburg. In 1834 the Dabrowski armoury became part of the weapons collection of Tsar Nicholas I in Tsarskoye Selo, and then in the Hermitage (1885-1887). In 1917 a specially established liquidation committee commenced work on the reconstruction of Polish collections in Russian museums and other institutions. Due to the efforts of the Special Commission, created for the purpose of restoration, part of the identified souvenirs found itself in the collections of the Army Museum (end of the 1920s). The second world war dealt a cruel blow to the majority of the collections brought back to Poland. The entire archive was destroyed in a fire but, fortunately, part of the military exhibits survived and up to his day is featured at the Polish Army Museum.







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  • Jaroslaw Pych, address not given, contact the journal editor


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Publication order reference


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