Wilanów Palace survived the time of Poland's partitions and both World Wars and has preserved its authentic historical qualities. It was built for the Polish king John III Sobieski in the last quarter of the 17th century and later was enlarged by other owners. It represents the characteristic type of baroque suburban residence built entre cour et jardin (between the entrance court and the garden). Its architecture is original—a merger of European art with old Polish building traditions. Upon its elevations and in the palace interiors antique symbols glorify the Sobieski family, especially the military triumphs of the king.
After the death of John III Sobieski in 1696, the palace was owned by his sons and later by the famous magnate families Sieniawscy, Czartoryscy, Lubomirscy, Potoccy and Braniccy. In 1720, the run-down property was purchased by one of the wealthiest women in Poland and a prominent stateswoman, Elżbieta Sieniawska. Between 1730 and 1733 it was a residence of August II the Strong, also a king of Poland. Every owner changed the interiors of the palace, as well as the gardens and grounds, according to the current fashion and needs.
In the year 1805 the owner Stanisław Kostka Potocki made a museum in a part of the palace, one of the first public museums in Poland. Besides European and Oriental art, the central part of the palace displayed a commemoration of king John III Sobieski and the glorious national past. Although the original palace was badly damaged by the Germans during World War II, it escaped demolition after the 1944 Warsaw Uprising because it was not in the City of Warsaw, but rather on the outskirts, at one end of the Royal Route. After the war, the palace was renovated, and most of the collection stolen by Germany was repatriated. In 1962 it was reopened to the public.
The palace and park in Wilanów is not only a priceless testimony to the splendour of Poland in the past, but also a place for cultural events and concerts, including Summer Royal Concerts in the Rose Garden and the International Summer Old Music Academy.
Many artists participated in the work, creating a palace with a rich facade and exquisite interior design. The building exhibits features of the baroque old Polish mansion, of an Italian garden villa and a French palace from the era of Louis XIV. The design was made by the Polonised Italian royal architect, Augustyn Wincenty Locci, who also supervised the construction on the site. Some of the reliefs and figural sculptures on the baroque Wilanów palace facade were created by Andreas Schlüter.
Overlooking the garden terrace, the graceful well-proportioned rear palace facade is again topped by statuary featuring a golden sundial on the southern side. The fresco sequence punctuating the facade shows scenes from classical literature, notably the Aeneid and Odyssey.
The sundial is on the south wall facing the formal garden in the French manner. The front of the palace is directed to the west, so the south wall is the side-wall and could be seen from the garden only. The vertical dial was designed in 1681–82 by Johannes Hevelius, the astronomer, and Adam Adamandy Kochański, the royal librarian; it is made in stucco in the baroque style. The figure of Chronos is a central point of this triple-dial surrounded by six small putti. Chronos, god of time, holding out the mantle of the heavens, on which both the time and the season's astrological sign are displayed.
There is one more vertical sundial in the palace of Wilanów. It was traced on window glass in 1788 by Jean François Richer of Paris for the king Stanisław August Poniatowski. Originally it was mounted in the Royal Castle of Warsaw.
The palace interior shows three different styles, from the 17th to the 19th centuries. It houses the Museum of Interiors, the painting gallery, the gallery of coffin portraits and of the decorative arts. Wilanów has no less than 60 rooms, most stuffed with royal memorabilia and portraits of Polish monarchs and notables. There are, for example, the Crimson Room, the Queen’s Antechamber, the King’s Antechamber, the King’s Bedroom, the King’s Library, and the Palace Chapel. The Etruscan Room displays Greek vases from the 8th to the 2nd century B.C., thought in the eighteenth century to be Etruscan because so many were found in Italy.
The oldest, Baroque section of the Palace, with the royal apartments, has preserved its original form. The ceiling in the Queen’s Antechamber is decorated with a painting on canvas by Jerzy Siemiginowski-Eleuter depicting an allegory of Autumn. Allegories of the remaining seasons can be found in the further royal rooms: the Queen’s Bedroom has an Allegory of Spring, the King’s Antechamber an Allegory of Winter, and in the King’s Bedroom the Allegory of Summer by Siemiginowski depicts Queen Marie Casimire as Aurora. The walls are covered in patterned velvet (1710–1730) in the Genoese style. The walls and ceilings of the Lower North Gallery and the Lower South Gallery are decorated with frescoes, commissioned by King John III from Michelangelo Palloni. Displayed in the Lower North Gallery are marble busts, silverware and the famous Portrait of Stanisław Kostka Potocki by Jacques Louis David. In the upper dome bath of Queen Marysieńka the walls are covered with 17th-century Dutch Delft tiles and profuse baroque stucco decoration. Near the south turret is a free-standing equestrian statue showing John III Sobieski as the triumphant vanquisher of the Turks. The plaster statue was made around 1693 by an unknown royal sculptor.
The first floor contains the Gallery of Polish Portrait with portraits of monarchs, including many portraits of John III and his family, members of Polish aristocracy and nobility, meritorious Poles and organizers of the artistic life.
The palace grounds and the park
The park, closely surrounding the palace, covers Шаблон:Convert and presents various styles of the art of gardening from the 17th to the 19th centuries. Small buildings and statues are hidden in its greenery.
The park has been built over a 300-year period, begun with the original manor construction in 1677 under King John III Sobieski’s direction. Three formal gardens exist on the palace grounds. The Baroque parterre in the French-Italian style is situated centrally. A one-acre flower garden on the north end, next to the Orangery, has a fountain, ancient-style statues, and benches on which to immerse yourself in the flower scents carried on the breeze.
On the south side of Wilanów Palace, beneath the royal apartments, is yet another formal garden. The Neo-Renaissance rose garden is set in-the-round, on a plateau overlooking the southern park. Labyrinth hedge-works hold high rosebushes that dapple the green landscape in reds and whites and yellows.
St. Anne’s Church and Potocki mausoleum
The church which bordered the northern edge of the palace grounds was built in 1772–1775. It was founded by August Aleksander Czartoryski and redesigned in Neo-Renaissance style in 1857–1870 under Enrico Marconi and Jan Kacper Heurich. Ornate Neo-Gothic Potocki mausoleum of owners of Wilanów between 1799 and 1892 was erected by Enrico Marconi.