The origins of today’s Łazienki Palace date back to the late 17th century. The Bathhouse was built at the behest of Prince Stanisław Herakliusz Lubomirski, one of the most important politicians, writers and philosophers of the time. The Baroque garden pavilion, designed by the Dutch architect, Tylman van Gameren, was intended as a place for resting, leisure and contemplation. The interiors of the Bathhouse were stylized on a grotto with a spring which symbolized the Hippocrene, a fountain on Mount Helicon in ancient Greece, which was the source of poetic inspiration for the Muses.
In 1764, when looking for a place in which to build his summer residence, King Stanisław August purchased the Bathhouse together with the Ujazdowski estate. Thanks to two architects – the Italian born Domenico Merlini and Johann Christian Kammsetzer, who was born in Dresden – the King transformed the Baroque Bathhouse pavilion into the neoclassical Palace on the Isle. Modelled on Italian architectural solutions, such as the Villa Borghese, Villa Albani, Villa Medici and Villa Ludovisi, it was intended to symbolize the dream of an ideal, modern and sovereign state.
Stanisław August transformed the Palace on the Isle into a villa museum in which he displayed the most valuable paintings from his collection of 2,289 works of art by some of the most distinguished European artists of the seventeenth and eighteen centuries. Dutch artists were the best represented; the finest paintings among them were those executed by Rembrandt van Rijn. Girl in a Picture Frame and Scholar at His Writing Table, were purchased from the King’s heirs in 1815 for the Lanckoroński collection and thanks to the donation from Karolina Lanckorońska made in 1994, they now hang in the Royal Castle in Warsaw.
Today, 140 works of art from the King’s collection are on display in the Palace on the Isle, and are exhibited in line with eighteenth-century principles. The most important works are: Anton R. Mengs’ Portrait of Sir Charles Hanbury Williams – English ambassador to Russia and friend of King Stanisław August – Jacob Jordaens the Elder’s Satyr Playing a Flute, Jan Victors’ Jacob and Esau, and Angelica Kauffmann’s Portrait of Princess Giuliana Pubblicola Santacroce.References:
The Beckov castle stands on a steep 50 m tall rock in the village Beckov. The dominance of the rock and impression of invincibility it gaves, challenged our ancestors to make use of these assets. The result is a remarkable harmony between the natural setting and architecture.
The castle first mentioned in 1200 was originally owned by the King and later, at the end of the 13th century it fell in hands of Matúš Èák. Its owners alternated - at the end of the 14th century the family of Stibor of Stiborice bought it.
The next owners, the Bánffys who adapted the Gothic castle to the Renaissance residence, improved its fortifications preventing the Turks from conquering it at the end of the 16th century. When Bánffys died out, the castle was owned by several noble families. It fell in decay after fire in 1729.
The history of the castle is the subject of different legends. One of them narrates the origin of the name of castle derived from that of jester Becko for whom the Duke Stibor had the castle built.
Another legend has it that the lord of the castle had his servant thrown down from the rock because he protected his child from the lords favourite dog. Before his death, the servant pronounced a curse saying that they would meet in a year and days time, and indeed precisely after that time the lord was bitten by a snake and fell down to the same abyss.
The well-conserved ruins of the castle, now the National Cultural Monument, are frequently visited by tourists, above all in July when the castle festival takes place. The former Ambro curia situated below the castle now shelters the exhibition of the local history.