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Leonardo da Vinci Lady with an Ermine, ca. 1490 Oil on panel The Princes Czartoryski Museum
The Polish Cultural Institute of New York
is proud to announce

A History of Collecting and Patronage

Saturday, March 8, 2003 - Sunday, May 18, 2003

California Palace of the Legion of Honor
San Francisco, CA

An extraordinary, one-time-only distillation of Poland's most important and hitherto relatively unknown collections of European painting, from both public and private museums, was presented for the first time in one place and outside of Poland when the Milwaukee Art Museum on September 13, 2002, opened its eagerly anticipated exhibition, Leonardo da Vinci and the Splendor of Poland: A History of Collecting and Patronage, that ran through November 24, 2002.

The centerpiece of this unique collection of 77 paintings representing French, Italian, Dutch, and German artists is Leonardo da Vinci's Lady with an Ermine (Cecilia Gallerani), an undisputed masterpiece of the Italian Renaissance. This powerful work, on loan from the Princes Czartoryski Museum in Cracow, is particularly significant in that it was painted in approximately 1491 and anticipates the Mona Lisa (1505-14). There are some who contend that the Lady with an Ermine, one of only twelve existing paintings by Leonardo, is an even greater work. Most likely this will be the last time that this crown jewel of Polish art collections can be seen outside of Poland.

Following its run at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston (December 8, 2002 - February 16, 2003), the exhibition can be seen at the California Palace of the Legion of Honor in San Francisco (March 8 - May 18, 2003).

The exhibition vividly reflects the proud history of collecting in Poland, including a love for the great Dutch and Flemish painters evident in the large numbers of their works found in the national collections, such as Hans Memling's The Last Judgment (1467-71), from GdaDsk

The collection also includes important European late Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque works by artists such as Wit Stwosz (Veit Stoss), Jan Van Goyen, and Jusepe de Ribera, as well as several of the 18th-century cityscapes of Warsaw, by the Italian court painter Bernardo Bellotto, which later served as helpful guideposts in the post-World War II reconstruction of Warsaw's completely destroyed Old Town. Alongside these and numerous other European masters will be a select group of works by great Polish artists from five centuries, including Jan Matejko, Piotr Michalowski, Olga Boznanska and Jacek Malczewski.


In connection with the arrival of the exhibition at the Legion of Honor, the Polish Cultural Institute is co-presenting the launching of three series of unique presentations of Polish film and performance art, which afford a potentially stimulating juxtaposition of the classical works of the old masters and the innovations of modern and contemporary art. Click below for descriptions and schedules:
  • Polish Avant-Garde Film Between the Wars
  • From the Mind of Stanislaw Lem: Three Films and a Short
  • Acclaimed Video/Performance Artist Piotr Wyrzykowski

  • For a Calendar of numerous other Poland-related events accompanying the exhibition, including film, theater, music, lectures, a disco, and much more - visit the website of The Splendor of Poland Cultural Events Committee in San Francisco:, and click on "Cultural Calendar".

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