THE COLLECTION OF POLISH PAINTING OF RURAL SUBJECT MATTER
One of the most well-known collections in the District Museum in Leszno is the Gallery of Polish rural paintings. It is one of the biggest collections of this kind in Poland. It consists of almost 800 paintings and over 250 drawings and engravings by nearly four hundred, largely eminent Polish artists, such as T. Axentowicz, J. Chełmoński, A. Fałat, W. Jarocki , S. Kamocki, I. Kossak, A. Kotsis, J. Malczewski, F. Pautsch, K. Sichulski, W. Tetmajer, L. Wyczółkowski, S. Wyspiański and M. Wywiórski.
The collection has been slowly built up over several decades. Between 1968 and 1970 the gallery acquired paintings by K. Alchimowicz, T. Axentowicz, J. Kossak, J. Malczewski, F. Pautsch, K. Sichulski and a dozen other artists. In the subsequent period (1970-1975), the Museum received paintings by other outstanding Polish painters, such as: J. Chełmoński, V. Hofman, J. Kamocki, W. Koniuszko, F. Kostrzewski, A. Kotsis, A. Kozakiewicz, S. Łasiński, M. Pociecha i J. Rapacki. After 1975, other works by more artists were added to the collection: the artists were: R. Bratkowski, Z. ćwikliński, J. Fałat, J. Graczyński, S. Korzeniowski, W. Skoczylas, L. Stasiak, M. Wywiórski and others.
The collection is still expanding, chiefly through purchases depending on the Museum`s current financial situation. Recently, the Museum has purchased paitings by S. Filipkiewicz, W. Gogolewski, B. Houwalt, J. Jaroszyński, S. Modzelewski, T. Nartowski, Z. Rozwadowski, E. Wasilkowski and engravings of plebeian characters by M. Płoński, a student of P. Norblin. [more - PDF]
The ethnographic collections of the Leszno District Museum number 1,940 items. The collections portray an image of folk culture of the 19th and 20th centuries. Folk costumes from Wielkopolska, and largely its south-western part, make up most of the collections. These are mainly women`s costumes, mostly ceremonial ones that show various kinds of local dress; for example, biskupiańskie, chazackie, from outside Leszno (Pawłowice, Kąkolewo, Bukowiec Górny) Kościan and Krotoszyn. As far as the different parts of the costumes are concerned, the headgear (35 items) is the most represented, which differed most widely, both in form and cut. Headgear such as czepiec, klapica, kapa, kapka, kopka, kryma, together with neckbands such as kreza, gorzec are the most decorative (white embroideries on cloth, batiste or tulle), with also parts of women`s costumes. Most of these items are unique products of folk handicraft that have become extinct as have a number of other individual parts of folk costumes, such as jaczka with a frill, szorc (spódnik sewn together with sznurówka) or shoulder clothes, called kuderki, rectangular striped pieces of fabric worn by elderly woman to cover their shoulders together with ceremonial costumes. Until the inter-war period, kuderka was worn the longest in Pawłowice, and it was from there that they came to the Museum. As far as men`s ceremonial clothes are considered, of particularly note is the men`s dress (sukmana) commonly worn in the 19th century, later replaced by wołoszka, now a rarity in museums. The collection of marine blue men`s dress in our Museum is from outside Nowy Tomyśl. [more - PDF]
Portraits in the collections held at the Leszno Museum date from 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. They were painted in local workshops as well as outside the borders of the Wielkopolska Province. The collection has about 160 paintings. Among the court portraits worth mentioning is the oldest, the portrait of Frederic V dating from the early 17th century. Other examples of 17th century portraits are two depicting a “burgher with a ruff” and a “woman burgher with a ruff”. Although of a later date, but still no less interesting, are two paintings from the workshop of Louisa de Silvestre from the second quarter of the 18th century, the portrait of Alexander Józef Sułkowski and“a man in armour”. In addition to the sublime court paintings, there are also local portraits with a much wider appeal. In our collections are portraits of the Morawski family, Mikołaj Kaliński and Adam Myszka Chołoniewski. Although not of a particularly high artistic standard, the portraits in the Leszno Museum of the nobility with their colourful traditional old Polish clothes and decorative forms captivate still the viewer. The collection also holds a few portraits of clerics, largely pastors.
Works of craft by the craft guilds, mainly 18th century paintings, come almost exclusively from the Wielkopolska province. Particularly impressive is the collection of the kings of rifle fraternities from Leszno, dating from 1715-1936, and consisting of 82 paintings. This collection has great iconographic value as it showes how the riflemen wore their clothes and jewels.
An inseparable branch of the “Sarmatian” culture are the coffin portraits, a special variety of Polish art culture. They were designed for funeral ceremonies, particularly for grandiose occasions when a member of the Polish nobility died.
In the mid 15th century, miniature portraits emerged, much smaller but exact replicas of larger and grander portraits. The 18th century, particularly during the second half, was the period when this kind of art blossomed, continuing as late as the 1840s. In Poland this form of art reached its creative peak during the reign of King Stanisław August. The collection is dominated by portraits of both of men and women as busts or half figures set against a neutral background with architecture elements. New methods in the printing of art works resulted in the emergence of graphic portraits.
In the mid 15th century portrait miniature emerged, a particular equivalent to grand portrait. The 18th century, and particularly its second half, saw its finest flowering which continued as long as the 1840s. In Poland this form of art reached a fully developed stage during the rule of King Stanisław August. The collection is dominated by portraits ( both women`s and men`s) in bust or half -figure against a neutral background with elements of architecture or a landscape. New developments in printing art resulted in emergence of graphic portraits. It was now possible to print many copies of portraits of kings or princes and their wives, of governments, municipal officials, clerks and secular officials. [more - PDF]
The collection of judaica in the Leszno District Museum includes synagogue and household religious objects, painting, graphic art and historical memorabilia. The most important items include Torah scrolls, handwritten sheets of parchments rolled around two wooden rolls. ece chaim (Hebrew ec chaim - tree of life), provided with a dress (Hebrew meil) and many ornaments (Hebrew klejkodesz), such as tas (Hebrew - breast plate), rimonim (Hebrew rimon - pomegranate) and (for great occasions) a Torah crown (Hebrew Keter Torah). A pointer called yad (Hebrew - hand) was used, a special rod shaped lake a hand with a finger pointing which helps the reader keep his place in the scroll.
In addition to specimens of Sefer Torah the museum also has a Keter Torah, surmounted by a figurine of an eagle from a Cracow factory (1922-1939) and a variety of yads. Talmud is an addition to the Bible and it explains and develops the norms contained in it. lt is the essential legal and religious code of Judaism. The museum has a Babylonian Talmud of 1885. [more - PDF]
The Leszno museum's historical collections are made up of objects taken over after World War Two from the former museum in Wygnańczyce (military artefacts, artistic handicraft), collections from St John's church (artistic handicraft) and donations from private people (coins and medals). Initially, the exhibits were categorized in accordance with the period they came from. Later historic-artistic objects have been separated from things that belonged to a newly-created collection of art, which has brought more structure to the collection.
In the 1950s and 60s, systematic purchases and numerous donations enriched the collections. In the following years the collection of archival material was stated and objects connected with the Bohemian Brethren Community in Leszno were reclaimed from Germany. The historical collection has been continually expanding through purchases and donations.
Now it consists of over 4,500 thousand exhibits. They include artistic handicraft (over 800 exhibits), numismatic objects and medals (over 2000), military artefacts (about 200), archival collections (about 240) and post cards (over 1000). Listed in an auxiliary inventory, photographs (over 1,000 pieces) are also part of this collection. [more - PDF]
COLLECTIONS OF ARTISTIC HANDICRAFT
The Leszno District Museum does not yet have a separate department with artistic handicraft. Exhibits from this group are held among the historical collections. The objects do not form a uniform complex, they come from various places, performed a variety of functions and their historic and artistic value varies a lot.
There are three principal methods of acquiring the exhibits: purchase, donations and grants from institutions. In this way the Leszno museum has taken possession of a stunning array of objects that illustrate the work and everyday life of people in Leszno and the surrounding area.
A great variety of artefacts demonstrate to standards of Leszno's handicraft over a span of three centuries. Keys, padlocks, gate locks were decorated with incised ornaments. Some tools once used in the workshops of artisans and in stores of merchants have also been preserved, for example a wooden ell with a 24-inch scale that belonged to the tailor Johann Seidl in the mid 19th century. The citizens' professional life was concentrated around craft guilds, that's why the museum has so many exhibits connected with these organizations. Some of the most striking among them are craft guild announcements; tin, brass or wooden plaques carried by the youngest master to summon quarterly guild meetings. A wooden announcement of butchers from Leszno depicts a scene of slaughtering of cattle. [more - PDF]
Although not particularly rich with their over 300 items, the archaeological collections represent all epochs in archaeology. From the Neolithic (4500-1650 BC) are stone axes. The Bronze Age (1650-550 BC) is chiefly represented by stoneware and ritual pottery and ornaments, bronze fibulae for fastening garments and tools. There are relatively few items from the LaTene (400 BC - O) and Roman (0-500 AD) periods. There are two extremely valuable items from the early Middle Ages (500-1250 AD): a fighting sword from the 13th century and a treasure trove of silver coins (c. 11th) with crusader denars and coins of Otto and Adelheid. The sword was taken from Lake Łoniewskie before the Second World War. It presumably belonged to Przemysł II, Duke of Wielkopolska later King of Poland (1295). This is one of the kinds of objects extremely rarely found in Poland and even inEurope. Just a few examples of swords of this type are known in Poland. Leszno item is one of the most fascinating finds.
With the establishment of the District Museum in Leszno a reference library was created that was necessary to document the collections acquired. When the first entries in the inventory books were made in 1950, guidelines for the acquisition of publications were adopted. In addition to a library that corresponds with the character of the collections amassed an interesting group of regional publications has been collected and old prints that determine the exceptional importance the museum's library now has. They are parts of scattered libraries collected by Leszno's Lutheran parishes, schools and residents, and mainly what is left of the former libraries of the Lutheran churches of the Holy Cross and St john and pastor Wilhelm Bickerich. [more - PDF]