From Żagań to Biedrzychowice

Published on: 25 / 11 / 2010

Our excursion begins with a visit in the former palace of the Birons in Żagań (Sagan in German, information on sightseeing available at the homepage http://pkis.um.zagan.pl/). The palace housed one of the most significant Silesian artwork's galleries, which was transferred to that site by the end of the 18th century.

The duchy of Żagań was at that time acquired by the duke of Kurland Peter von Biron (1724-1800). The collection formed by his endevour consisted of more than 560 paintings. Among the most precious exhibits were canvas paintings by Rembrandt, Goltzius, Hobbema and by other Dutch masters. In the collection of the family Biron were numerous portraits of sovereigns which emphasized European relations of the family. In the collection were many portraits executed on Biron's order (e.g. canvas paintings by Josef Grassi, Angelika Kaufmann, Anton Grafa) and landscapes painted by contemporary artists (Roman views by Filip Hacker). In the 19th century the collection was expanded by a group of sculptures and plaster casts. Presently the brilliant artworks can't be admired in Żagań anymore, but the palace still testifies the Birons' former prominence. After sichtseeing the palace we invite to visit the park that surrounds it.

Our route leads forward via Przemków (Primkenau), where once there was a palace, erected by the end of the 19th century for the dukes of Schleswig-Holstein (the palace was destroyed after the World War II, only part of its outbuildings and the park remained). The archival photos testify the splendour with which its interiors had been furnished, decorated with pieces of older furniture and with artworks. Worth mentioning are also the precious tapestries and porcelain. The stylistics of the historizing interiors was varied (e.g. the so called Emperor's Cabinet was furnished in Oriental style). The palace housed numerous portraits (mainly by Anton Graff) and canvas paintings by older masters, among which at least a self-portrait by Anton van Dyck has to be mentioned.

Next stop on our route is the castle of Grodziec (Gröditzberg in German, information on sightseeing available at the homepage www.grodziec.com). In 1823 it was purchased by Wilhelm Christian Benecke von Gröditzberg. Six years later the owner bought a large collection of stained-glasses (156 pieces), which had formerly belonged to a renowned Swiss poet Johann Martin Usteri. The collection included mainly medieval and early modern stained-glasses and i presently regarded as one of the most significant collections of that type, ever formed in Europe. After the collection had been purchased Benecke used the stained-glasses for decorating the castle by installing them in windows. A few of them were used for decorating the nearby church of the Holy Virgin of Sowing – the two of them (executed in the 17th century) can still be admired in windows of the presbytery. This is the only token that remained from the unique collection which left Silesia in the 2nd half of the 19th century.

In the centre of Lwówek Śląski (Löwenberg in German) raises a palace that was once owned by the family von Hohenzollern-Hechingen (currently housing the Town Hall and Commune Office). The residence is mainly known by the fact that such famous musicians like Ferenc List, Hector Berlioz or Richard Wagner, gave concerts there, for the family's invtation. However one has to remember hundreds of brilliant artworks which decorated the palace interiorrs (the catalogues register more than 400 pieces). There were pictorial compositions by Rembrandt, Jan van Goyen and Emanuel de Witte. The collection was transferred there from Żagań, on the occasion of the marriage of Paulina (1782-1845), Peter von Biron's second daughter, with Duke Friedrich Hermann von Hohenzollern-Hechingen.

The last places that we recommend visiting are the palace in Biedrzychowice (Friedersdorf in German, currently the Ensemble of Higher Schools, www.zsp.biedrzychowice.pl) and the castle Rajsko (Neidburg, currently in ruins). At both places was once housed an interesting collection formed by przez Alexander von Minutoli. It included older masters' paintings, a few of which we can currentyl admire in Berliner Gemäldegalerie or in Viennese Kunsthistorisches Museum. Of particular attraction was the collection of Egyptian artworks, among them mummies, papyrus sheets and glas ornaments (some of them can be watched in National Museum of Warsaw). While travelling through Silesia Minutoli often purchased artworks that were removed from their original site of destination e.g. because of the building's modernization. Among them was mainly the polyptych from St. Peter's and Paul's Church in Legnica, as well as numerous stonemasonry works (some of them were embedded in walls of the ground-floor of the palace in Biedrzychowice, where they still can be seen).

Project co-financed by Ministry of Labour and Social Policy under Government Project – Civic Benefit Fund.
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