Quarters of Poland's hero prince open to visitors

AP News
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Posted: Jul 15, 2011 12:05 PM
Quarters of Poland's hero prince open to visitors

The elegant living quarters of a celebrated 18th-century prince were reopened in Warsaw Friday after years of detective work that involved tracking down every still-existing picture and decorator's bill that could help recreate their original look.

The meticulous reconstruction of the lodgings of Prince Jozef Poniatowski _ on the first floor of a baroque palace in Warsaw's Old Town _ was the last step in restoring the glory to a complex of royal buildings destroyed during World War II.

President Bronislaw Komorowski opened the rooms to the public after his own office made economies to help finance the reconstruction.

The full restoration of the Palac Pod Blacha _ or Copper-Roof Palace _ underlines how widespread the destruction of the war was: seven decades after the war's end, efforts are still being made in Warsaw and elsewhere to restore or reconstruct the country's historic gems.

The Copper-Roof Palace is part of the Royal Castle Museum, a larger complex that was once the seat of Polish royalty.

Poniatowski was born in Vienna in 1763 of a Polish father and Czech-Austrian mother and later settled in Warsaw, where his uncle, Stanislaw August Poniatowski, reigned as the last king of Poland from 1764-95.

He fought in the Austrian and Napoleonic armies, winning orders for bravery and gaining the distinction of the Marshal of France. He died in 1813 commanding Polish troops who had sided with Napoleon in the Battle of Leipzig against a coalition made up of troops from Russia, Prussia, Austria and Sweden.

In the stylish yet modest rooms the bachelor prince led an extravagant and rich social life from 1798 until his death. He resided there with his French lover and confidante, Henriette de Vauban, a married woman, and with his sister, Maria Tyszkiewicz.

The chief decorator, Katarzyna Jursz-Salvadori, said that black-and-white prewar photographs allowed artists to recreate the look and arrangement of the rooms, which are filled with Empire-era furniture, chandeliers, busts and oil paintings. She said bills from Poniatowski's decorators for dye and services helped them chose appropriate materials and colors.

The palace is located in Warsaw's Old Town, which was leveled during World War II but meticulously restored in the postwar years. Today it is recognized as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.