Polska Akademia Umieje̜tności <Krakau> / Komisja Historii Sztuki [Editor]; Polska Akademia Nauk <Warschau> / Oddział <Krakau> / Komisja Teorii i Historii Sztuki [Editor]
Folia Historiae Artium — NS: 13.2015

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Folia Historiae Artium
Seria Nowa, t. 13: 2015/pl issn 0071-6723

MAGDALENA PIWOCKA

Wawel Royal Castle, Cracow

THE STORY OF NOAH AND THE STORY
OF THE BABEL TOWER FROM THE TAPESTRY
COLLECTION OF KING SIGISMUND AUGUSTUS

REPLICAS AND TRANSMUTATIONS

Lorsque le roi de Pologne Sigismond-Auguste choisit
pour en orner son palais ces grands sujets bibliques,
dont Vacademisme est tempere par le pittoresque
et le charme depaysages souvent agrementes d’animaux
reels ou fantastiques, il donnait le ton aux amateurs
de tapisseries des autres pays.

Marthe Crick-Kuntziger, 1938

Since the 1930s the tapestry collection of King Sigismund 11
Augustus (1520-1572) has held an established place in the
world literature of the subject 1. Its artistic merits are only
matched by the important place it occupies in Polish history
and enthusiastic reception it has enjoyed over the centuries.

The Sigismund tapestries were displayed for the first time
on 30 July 1553 at the Wawel Castle, during the wedding cel-
ebrations of the king and Catherine of Habsburg (1533-1572),
a widow of Francesco Gonzaga, Duke of Mantua. There
survives a description written by Stanisław Orzechowski 2,
an eyewitness to the royal nuptials, who singled out the two
in the series: The Story ofthe First Parents and The Story of

1 Only after their restitution from Russia (1921-1928) they entered
world academic literature - M. Crick-Kuntziger, Les 156 tapis-
series bruxelloises du chateau royal de Cracovie et leur importance
pour I’histoire de I’art flamand au xvie siecle, “Revue d’Art”, 27, sep-
tembre 1926, pp. 65-71. The essential knowledge about them has
been expanded through the Belgian book: Les tapisseries flamandes
au Chateau Royal du Wawel d Cracovie. Tresors du roi Sigismond u
Auguste Jagellon, ed. J. Szablowski, Anvers 1972 (in 4 languages).

2 S. Orzechowski, Panagyricus nuptiarum Sigismundi Augusti Regis,
Cracoviae m.d.liii.

Noah, both hung in the Castle apartments. They formed the
nucleus of the royal collection which from about 1550 grew
steadily for over a decade, to finally include an impressive
number of some 160 tapestries (today it includes 138 pieces).

So far the archival studies have not shed light on the
authorship of the 19 tapestries with scenes from Genesis,
woven in Brussels before 1553 and forming the core of the
royal assembly. The attribution of the series to Michiel 1
Coxcie of Malines (1499-1592) was proposed by Marian
Morelowski first in 1922 and then successively in 1923,1925,
and 1929 3 and has been widely accepted. From 1530 to 1539
Coxcie stayed in Rome, where he executed monumental
wall paintings in several churches 4 5. During his lifetime

3 M. Morelowski, O arrasach flamandzkich Zygmunta Augusta,
“Prace Komisji Historii Sztuki”, 3,1923, pp. v-vi (session 16 111922);

idem, Arrasy jagiellońskie odzyskane z Rosji. Przewodnik po wysta-
wie, Warszawa 1923, pp. 17-19; idem, Arrasy wawelskie Zygmunta
Augusta, “Sztuki Piękne”, 1,1925; idem, Arasy wawelskie Zygmunta
Augusta. Les tapisseries bruxelloises du Chateau Royal de Cracovie,
Kraków 1929 (2 nd ed.), pp. 21-33.

4 J. Schmidlin, Geschichte der deutschen Nationalkirche in Rom
S. Maria dell’Anima, Freiburg im Br.-Wien 1906, pp. 248-249;
N. Dacos, Lespeintres belges a Rome au xvie siecle, Bruxelles 1964
(Etudes d’histoire de 1’art publiees par l’lnstitut belge de Rome,
vol. 1), pp. 23-29; G. Knopp, W. Hansmann, S. Maria dell’Anima:
Die Deutsche Nationalkirche in Rom, Monchengladbach 1979,
pp. 51-51. About the artist, who is still waiting for a monograph,
see: Michel Coxcie, pictor regis, 1499-1592. Internationaal colloquium,

5 en 6 juni 1992, Mechelen 1993 (Handelingen van de Koninklijke
Kring voor Oudheidkunde, Letteren en Kunst van Mechelen,
96, 2) - here the earlier literature. See also E. Leuschner, Coxcie
Michiel (1), [in:] Allgemeines Kunstlerlexikon. Die Bildenden Kimstler
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