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Antiquity Comes Alive in Slonim. The Tapestries of Lithuanian Hetman Michał Kazimierz Ogiński

4 April–11 June 2017

The international exhibition „Antiquity Comes Alive in Slonim. The Tapestries of Lithuanian Hetman Michał Kazimierz Ogiński“ is dedicated to the tapestry collection of one of the most famous 18th-century state and cultural figures in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the entire Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. It reveals both the scope of his arts patronage, demonstrating his refined taste, and the early cultural heritage traditions of Lithuania, as well as the artistic connections existing in Europe at the time.

The most important highlights of this exhibition, which presents early Lithuanian heritage treasures and returns them to our historical memory, are seven textiles of exceptional artistic value from a series of 12 tapestries that were miraculously preserved. Subtle in their colours, they have been carefully restored due to their age and extreme sensitivity to the environment. The textiles were created by local masters from Slonim (present-day Belarus) in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania in around 1784–1790 at a manufactory founded by Ogiński. They depict deities from Antiquity and other characters. The story behind the journey and conservation of these tapestries in the 19th and 20th centuries reads like a detective novel.

The German master Johann Karl Kletsch, known throughout Europe, was in charge of the Lithuanian hetman’s Slonim manufactory where these unique tapestries were woven. The author of the cartoons used to produce these impressive textiles was the hetman’s Italian architect, Innocente Maraino. The initial images of the characters from Antiquity depicted in these tapestries came from a collection of engravings by Simon Thomassin that was released in the late 17th century. They portrayed antique sculptures created for the Versailles residence of the King of France, Louis XIV. This book, the source of the idea for the textile cartoons, is also on display at the exhibition.

Having been under the control of the Sapieha princes for centuries, in the second half of the 18th century Slonim became the property of the Lithuanian Hetman Ogiński. The grand residence ensemble, constructed with a theatre, school, printing house, workshops and other buildings, was called the Home of the Muses during the hetman’s times, also the Athens or the Versailles of Lithuania. The tapestries on show at this exhibition were woven especially for the Hall of Deities that had been built as part of the hetman’s new palace. No trace whatsoever of Ogiński’s Slonim residence has reached our days, while the deities lost their home. The surviving subtle textiles can thus remind us of this centre of aristocratic manor culture and the arts which flourished in the second half of the 18th century in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania.

Also on display at the exhibition is a portrait of the tapestry commissioner, the Grand Hetman of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, briefly also the Vilnius Voivode, a musician and writer famous across all of Europe, Lithuania’s patron of culture and the arts, a resourceful agriculturalist and physiocrat, a magnate who promoted the ideals of the Age of Enlightenment and maintained close ties with famous French thinkers such as Voltaire, Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Denis Diderot, Prince Michał Kazimierz Ogiński. The portrait was painted in 1755 by the Polish artist working in Dresden (Saxony, Germany), Anna Rosina Lisiewska Matthieu.

The exhibition is jointly coordinated by the National Museum – Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania and its long-time, loyal foreign partner – Wawel Royal Castle in Krakow – State Art Collection (Poland). Aside from the Wawel Royal Castle, exhibits have been loaned by other cultural heritage institutions in Poland: the Ciechanowiecki Foundation at the Royal Castle in Warsaw – Museum, the National Museum in Krakow and its branch, the Princes Czartoryski Museum, the Historical Museum in Sanok, and one private collector from Poland. The exhibition is supplemented with a comprehensive catalogue in Lithuanian and English, while the contexts of the exceptional Lithuanian treasures on show at the exhibition are revealed via a rich program of scientific, cultural and educational events.

The exhibition will be held from April 4 to June 11, 2017 at the National Museum – Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania (4 Katedros sq., Vilnius). 

Exhibition patron
Speaker of the Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania prof. Dr Viktoras Pranckietis

Exhibition organizers
National Museum – Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania
Wawel Royal Castle – State Art Collection

Exhibits loaned by
Muzeum Historyczne w Sanoku
Muzeum Narodowe w Krakowie – Muzeum Książąt Czartoryskich

Private collector, Krakow (Poland)
Fundacja Zbiorów imienia Ciechanowieckich w Zamku Królewskim w Warszawie
Zamek Królewski na Wawelu – Państwowe Zbiory Sztuki

Exhibition curators
Vydas Dolinskas
Povilas Andrius Stepavičius
Marijus Uzorka

Exhibition concept and plan
Magdalena Ozga, Jerzy T. Petrus
Magdalena Piwocka
Vydas Dolinskas
Eduardas Kauklys
Živilė Mikailienė
Marijus Uzorka

Exhibition publishing coordinator
Živilė Mikailienė

Exhibition cultural programme coordinators
Iveta Jaugaitė
Jolanta Karpavičienė

Exhibition educational programme coordinators
Rūta Kaupaitė
Daiva Tuinylienė

Exhibition information coordinators
Mindaugas Puidokas
Ramunė Vaičiulytė

Exhibition technical installation coordinators
Kęstutis Karla
Eduardas Kauklys
Egidijus Stankevičius