Poznań, al. Marcinkowskiego 9

The National Museum in Poznań is one of the leading museum institutions in Poland. At present it houses 309,569 objects entered as 203,304 inventory items as well as 4,119 deposits. The collection of the Poznań Museum is made up of works of art created throughout centuries, from antiquity to modern times.

The Department of Ancient Art was established in 1945, but ancient artworks had been collected since the late 19th century in the German Keiser Friedrich Museum, renamed in 1919 into the Museum of Wielkopolska. In the period between the world wars the Museum accepted the deposit of objects from the Poznań Society for the Friends of Sciences. World War II substantially depleted the Museum’s collection. In the second half of the 20th century this collection got extended with purchases and gifts, a donation of selected vases from the Gołuchów collection, a deposit from Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań, and more recently a deposit from Bulgaria. At present the Gallery numbers around one thousand objects, predominantly tied with the classical culture of the Mediterranean and the civilizations of ancient Middle East.

Special position among the Greek artworks is held by the head of the statue of the Brauronian Artemis, full of girlish charm, one of the masterpieces by Praxiteles, a great late-Classical sculptor. Small sculptures are represented by terracotta figurines. Objects exemplifying the characteristic Greek vase painting afford insight into their basic decoration techniques and stylistic development.

Roman art in the collection is represented by a very interesting set of portraits of the emperors and empresses of the Roman Empire. There are also examples of handicrafts and fragments of frescoes from, e.g., Pompeii, buried under lava and ashes after the memorable eruption of Vesuvius. Most interesting objects from Roman and Byzantine times come from Novae (deposit of the Historical Museum in Svištov), a pivotal stronghold in the Moesia Inferior province, today’s Bulgaria. Besides elements of architecture we can find here sacred and tomb sculptures, ceramics and tableware. Without doubt the most invaluable object of this set is a marble sacrificial table with a relief figural frieze. Art from north of the Black Sea provides testimony to the traditions of the local people and indicates the influence of Greek, Roman and Egyptian cultures, evident in ceramic figurines, dishes and jewellery.

The Poznań collection likewise offers insight into the still fascinating Etruscan culture. The Museum houses, e.g. bronze objects, for which Etruscans were famous, as well as ceramic dishes made in diverse decorative techniques.
Asia Minor is represented by ceramics excavated by H. Schliemann from the ruins of Homer’s Troy at the end of the 19th century. Objects of ancient Egypt illustrate an intricate system of beliefs tied with the worship of deities (votive figures and animal mummies), magic (amulets) and belief in the afterlife (sarcophagus, stele and ushebti).

Replicas of original ancient objects or their modern copies constitute a separate set of items. Of special interest here is a group of 30 copies of Greek terracotta figurines, made over a century ago, patterned after the originals from the greatest European museums.

Up to now the ancient collections have only been presented to the public during two temporary exhibitions. The first of these, “The Collection of Antiquities from the National Museum in Poznań” was staged from November 15, 1983 to January 31, 1984. The exhibition was curated by Jerzy Kubczak and Jan Szymkiewicz and arranged by Irena Jarzyńska. The exhibition, on display at the Museum of Applied Arts on Góra Przemysła in Poznań, showed for the first time in a systematic and comprehensive manner sets of objects representing various ancient cultures gathered in the Poznań Museum. The main part of the exhibition was 277 objects from the Gallery of Ancient Art, supplemented by 62 coins from the Coin Room and a carnyx – a wind instrument from the Museum of Musical Instruments.

The exhibition showed two culture circles of the ancient world: the East, represented by ancient Egypt, and the Antiquity, composed of Greek, Etruscan and Roman objects. The exhibits on display originated from the 4th century BC (Egyptian dishes) to the early medieval period (jewellery of evidently ancient provenance). Some of the exhibits, such as a Roman portrait or small-sized Egyptian art objects, display a substantial artistic value. The exhibition was accompanied by a catalogue The Collection of Antiquities from the National Museum in Poznań, edited by Jerzy Kubczak.

The other exhibition – “Novae – an Ancient City” – was on display from August 3, 2003 to March 31, 2004. A permanent exhibit of the Gallery of Ancient Art is currently under construction and will be located in the old building of the Gallery of Painting and Sculpture.