It’s back, nearly! Poland’s oldest museum housing masterpieces including da Vinci’s ‘Lady with an Ermine’ set to reopen

The museum which was founded in 1801 includes priceless masterpieces such as Leonardo da Vinci’s ‘Lady with an Ermine’, which was looted during WWII. Jacek Bednarczyk/PAP

Poland’s oldest museum is set to reopen this year after being closed for renovation.

Located in Kraków, the Czartoryski Museum will become more accessible to today’s visitors, while retaining its heritage.

“In December this year, we will be able to present you something special, something that combines past and future. This most valuable Polish collection will be presented in a worthy manner,” said Minister of Culture Piotr Gliński in Kraków on 21 January.

In 1870, Prince Władysław Czartoryski decided to move the museum to Kraków, where he sought to turn it into a modern gallery.Jacek Bednarczyk/PAP

The museum bears the name of the Czartotyskis, a Polish princely family. Founded in Puławy in 1801 by Princess Izabela Czartoryska, it claims to be the oldest museum facility in Poland.

“From the beginning of its existence, the Museum had a national character and was created to preserve for the future generations monuments of culture and art saved by Princess Izabela,” its website states.

In 1870, Prince Władysław Czartoryski decided to move the museum to Kraków, where he sought to turn it into a modern gallery.

The museum experienced losses during the Second World War. After the war, it was incorporated into the National Museum in Kraków in 1950.

This includes replacing the roof of Kraków’s Arsenal, which has housed the museum since the 1870s. The modernisation works will provide disabled access to all the museum’s floors, while increasing the space for exhibits.Jacek Bednarczyk/PAP

In December 2016, the Czartoryski Collection was purchased by the Polish state for 100 million euros. It consists of some 86,000 museum artefacts and 250,000 library ones, including books and manuscripts.

These include works of art like Leonardo da Vinci’s “Lady with an Ermine” and Rembrandt’s “Landscape with a Good Samaritan”, which were looted from Poland during the Second World War and returned to the country later.

Like the museum itself, they now belong to the State Treasury.

The museum is now undergoing renovation work accompanied by the conservation of artefacts.

Among the museum’s 86,000 museum artefacts are Rembrandts ‘Landscape with a Good Samaritan”.Stanisław Rozpędzik/PAP

This includes replacing the roof of Kraków’s Arsenal, which has housed the museum since the 1870s. The modernisation works will provide disabled access to all the museum’s floors, while increasing the space for exhibits.

Meanwhile, the collection is being digitised, with plans to launch video clips promoting the collection soon.

“We must adapt the Czartoryski Palace to the needs of a modern viewer, but also to remember the heritage of this place,” director of the National Museum in Kraków Andrzej Betlej, a historian of art, told Polish radio last year, commenting on the renovation.