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Stanisław August Poniatowski (1732-1798), the last King of Poland, attached great importance to culture and the dissemination of knowledge. In line with the enlightened ideas of his time, the well-travelled King created an artist’s workshop, was a founding father of the National Education Committee and worked on a public library. He was also much involved in the design of the new interiors of the Royal Castle and his private residences at Ujazdów and Łazienki, near Warsaw. As an avid collector, the King amassed some 2,400 paintings. Over the course of his lifetime, these objects were bought at auctions, commissioned, gifted, moved between spaces, copied and written about. 

Political unrest prevented the king from realizing his apparent dream: the opening of Poland's first public museum, built from his collection. When Poland was divided between Russia, Prussia and Austria in 1795 and ceased to exist as a country, the King had to abdicate the throne and lived the rest of his life in exile in St. Petersburg. Some of the King’s paintings were sent there on his request, some were given away, hidden, sold or eventually inherited by family members after the King died in 1798. 

This seminar will combine architectural drawings, floorplans and inventories of the King’s collections throughout his reign, as well as some of his contemporaries, to investigate the meaning of the King’s paintings in creating an identity both for himself as an elected royal, for his relatives as member of the royal family and for other collectors at home and abroad.

Esther Griffin - van Orsouw got an LLM in Social Law from the University of Tilburg in the Netherlands (2005) and practised law before achieving an MA in Art History from the Open University of the UK (2019). Currently, she is a PhD candidate at the University of Warsaw and a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellow of the European Training Network PALAMUSTO ( Her ongoing research focusses on collecting practices and spaces in 17th and 18th century Europe, with a focus on Poland. In July 2023, her paper “Questions of Privacy at the Zamoyska Palace in Warsaw” was published in the Court Historian. Esther is also Secretary of the Society for Court Studies and active member of the Roscrea Heritage Society.

All welcome- but booking is required.