Poland’s Mona Lisa: Lady with an Ermine
Leonardo da Vinci’s Lady with an Ermine has a checkered past, having kept company with artists, noblemen, gentlewomen, thieves, and Nazis. But from now on, her heart belongs to Poland. The famous Czartoryski Collection, her cohort since 1798, has been purchased by the state, with the hope that she will never roam again.
The priceless artwork is one of only four portraits of women that da Vinci painted; one of them, of course, being the Mona Lisa. Like the Mona Lisa, the Lady has an enigmatic smile that can be attributed to modesty or inner amusement, or perhaps to something else entirely. Unlike her more famous sister at the Louvre, however, where long lines are hustled past the small painting, the Lady with an Ermine can be appreciated and studied up close and at length in her new quarters at the National Museum in Krakow.
Shamelessly plundered, the rest of the Czartorski collection, including Raphael’s Portrait of a Young Man, was whisked away to Germany. The Raphael is one of hundreds of art pieces still missing.
So it’s especially fortunate that most of the Czartoryski collection was brought home after the war. When Poland became a democratic country again in 1989, the Czartoryski family reclaimed the collection. They set up a private foundation to oversee it, and the treasures were again exhibited in their manor house museum, up until the start of renovations in 2012.
In December 2016 Prince Adam Karol Czartoryski, head of the family foundation, signed over ownership of the celebrated private collection to the Polish government for 100 million dollars, a fraction of its worth.
More than 500 years after she was painted, the Lady with an Ermine belongs to the Polish people, honoring Princess Izabella Czartoryska’s 18th century motto: “The past to the future.”
Visit the Lady with an ErmineShe can be admired at the National Museum in Krakow Tuesday-Saturday, from 10AM to 6PM. On Monday, hours are 10AM to 4AM.
Travel to Poland with MIR
Little over two decades after regaining its independence, Poland has become one of the powerhouses of Europe. Visit the gracious capital of Warsaw and lovely Krakow (and Lady with an Ermine in the National Museum of Krakow), stroll the beaches of the Mazury Lake District, hike the trails of the spectacular Tatra Mountains, talk to the local people and you will agree with us.
MIR has over two decades of travel experience to Poland, with on-the-ground support, and tour managers that clients rave about. MIR’s full service, dedication, commitment to quality, and destination expertise have twice earned us a place on National Geographic Adventure’s list of “Best Adventure Travel Companies on Earth.”
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Visit the National Museum in Krakow on a…
MIR’s wintery small group tour to Poland, Christmas Traditions of Poland, is perfect for travelers of any age. Celebrate the heartfelt holiday traditions of Poland, wandering Krakow’s brilliant Christmas Market and joining a Polish family in their Warsaw home for the intimate Christmas Eve feast called Wigilia, where you can sample 12 different traditional dishes. This tour also includes a visit to the National Museum in Krakow, where you can get acquainted with the Lady with an Ermine.
Or, opt to travel to Poland any time of the year on our Essential Poland independent journey or on a custom private journey. Both of these travel options allow you to travel on your preferred travel dates, and you can include a stop at the National Museum in Krakow to see Lady with an Ermine.
MIR specializes in personalized, private journeys, and we love to take your ideas and weave them into a trip tailored especially for you. Travel wherever, however, and with whomever you like, relying on our expert assistance. Contact us to find out more about our custom and private travel expertise – each trip handcrafted to your interests, dates and pace.
Top photo: Leonardo da Vinci, The Lady with an Ermine, ca.1490, Inv. No MNK-MKCz XII-209
PUBLISHED: May 18, 2017