A few words about the king...
The King, although criticised as a politician and ruler, was a great lover, connoisseur and collector of art, and his artistic patronage bore a rich ideological content and political programme. According to the monarch’s intention, both the architectural designs he commissioned and the most outstanding works of European art served clear purposes of propaganda. Stanisław August believed in constitutional monarchy and wanted to persuade the nobility, then synonymous with the Polish nation, to support deep reforms in the spirit of the Enlightenment. The King also wanted to ensure Poland’s prestige and attract prominent representatives of science and culture from major European centres to Warsaw.
In 1764, at the very outset of his reign, Stanisław August planned to significantly rebuild the Castle. He wanted his main residence to reflect the tastes and ambitions of the Enlightenment, as the castle was in poor condition when he took it over. Jacob Fontana, the court architect, as well as Domenico Merlini, Efraim Schröger and Victor Louis prepared ambitious designs for the king. However, those costly plans never came to fruition due to a lack of funds. On the other hand, the Castle interiors were significantly changed. The Great Apartments, serving for representative state functions, were modelled after designs by Fontana, Merlini and Johann Christian Kamsetzer, as were the private King’s Apartments. Court painters, including Marcello Bacciarelli, Bernardo Bellotto, Jan Bogumił Plersch, and sculptors, André Le Brun and Jacob Monaldi made paintings, painted decoration and sculptures specially for those interiors. Stanisław August supervised and approved the projects himself; he sketched outlines for interior design himself and ordered furnishings, furniture and other mobilia from the best European craftsmen. The Castle interiors do not owe as much to any other Polish monarch. During the last years of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, several momentous legal acts were adopted in those interiors, including the Constitution of the Third of May in 1791, the first modern governmental act in Europe, whose reforming character was due to the King.
The majority of works on display come from the original decor of interiors arranged for Stanisław August. All the orders and purchases were most likely consulted and accepted by the king himself. They are an authentic testimony to that period and to the refined taste of the last Polish monarch.