Universitätsbibliothek HeidelbergUniversitätsbibliothek Heidelberg

Marcinkowski, Wojciech [Editor]; Zaucha, Tomasz [Editor]; Museum Narodowe w Krakowie [Editor]
Plaster casts of the works of art: history of collections, conservation, exhibition practice ; materials from the conference in the National Museum in Krakow, May 25, 2010 — Krakau, 2010

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Hubert Kowalski

The history of regal and university collection of plaster casts
in Warsaw

The beginning of the collection of plaster casts is related to an ambitious plan which
assumed the foundation of the Academy of Fine Arts at the Royal Castle in Warsaw.
The idea to establish the Academy or found similar artistic projects; including the cre-
ation of a collection of plaster casts, was formed in the very beginning of the reign
of king Stanisław August Poniatowski.1

It was most probably at the beginning of 1765 that king August, considering the foun-
dation of the Academy of Fine Arts, began to complete the collection with casts
taken from the most precious sculptural monuments, located in museums, collec-
tions and churches in Italy, France, Germany and England.2 A recollection of such
events from 1767 can be found in two manuscripts. The first manuscript is a letter
by Raimondo Cocchi to the great prince of Tuscany, Peter Leopold 1, which says
that Stanisław August requested the execution of plaster copies of ancient sculptures
situated in the so-called Tribune of the Uffizi Gallery.3 The second manuscript pres-
ents a remuneration paid in August 1768 to the sculptor Traballesi, who produced
11 casts for the king.4

Such "completion" of the collection with foreign casts allowed Poniatowski to form
his own collection, recognized as one of the most valuable in Europe. At the begin-
ning of the 70s of the 18th century, the process of casting focused on masterpieces
from museums in Rome.5

Creating his collection, Stanisław August was driven by the need to provide models
to the Warsaw sculptors and painters.6 He was aided, inter alia, by Jan Chrystian
Kamsetzer, the royal architect. During his visit in Rome in 1781, the artist performed
plaster casts of monuments to serve as models for craftsmen, who had never seen
anything of divine taste, as well as to give basis for future art students.7 Thanks
to the preserved correspondence, we get to know that Kamsetzer, on leaving Rome,
passed performed plaster casts of ornaments for posting to Warsaw.8 Apart from this,
Stanisław August owned a casting workshop, in which plaster casts were executed.9
At the end of his rule, the collection comprised 542 casts.10

The cast room was initially established in a studio at the Royal Castle." Over time,
a part of the collection was moved to the Łazienki Palace complex (fig. 1). Several
casts were located in the small theater in Łazienki.12 In the 80s, after having decorated