The palace-and-park complex in Chrzęsne

The palace-and-park complex in Chrzęsne

The history of the estate dates back to 1 half of the sixteenth century. In the twenties of the seventeenth century, the estate was acquired by Stefan Dobrogost Grzybowski.

From its inception until the World War II, Chrzęsne was owned or remained under the care of twelve owners or administrators. Noticeable place among them was taken by Stefan D. Grzybowski, Józef Kossakowski, Andrzej Zamoyski, Mateusz Murawski and the last owners – the Koskowski family.

The palace was frequented by guests: Jan Owidzki, a popular illustrator and painter, Julian Maszyński, book illustrator, the author of several works of painting devoted to the surroundings. Also here, Władysław Podkowiński, a painter, was eager to spend his summer holidays. Just here, in this area, were created in the years 1891 to 1892, such works as, among others: In the garden, In gooseberries, A Morning in Chrzęsne, Portrait of Wincentyna Karska, Lupine in the sun, Mokra Wieś, Bronisia, A Meeting. Associated with Koskowski family was Miłosz Kotarbiński, co-organizer, and later a director of the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw.

The most important element of the historic complex remaining until today is a well-preserved Late Renaissance palace. The façade is decorated by interestingly designed corners of the building, window framing, pilasters and toothed cornice above a frieze. Also interestingly presented are spaces inside the building with preserved original architectural details.

The entire complex includes, in addition to the palace, an administrative building (former „czworak” – cottage with four chambers) and reconstructed granary. Once there were also wooden stables and sizeable cellars, and the whole was surrounded by a landscape park.

The origins of the palace

The first reference of Chrzęsne comes from 1525, from the time of Prince Janusz reigning in Mazovia. The inspection of the demesne carried out in 1565 shows that a manor and solidly built mansion with a small garden existed already in that place.

Initially Chrzęsne was a private property of Canon Jan Wojsławski, who has received the demesne for his service to the ducal court. In 1533 it briefly became the royal domain, and in 1571 it returned again for more than fifty years into the hands of the Wojsławski family. In the twenties of the seventeenth century, the estate was acquired by Stefan Dobrogost Grzybowski, repeatedly a Member of Parliament, chamberlain and the governor of Warsaw and Kamieńczyk. Just for him in 1635 an imposing headquarters, referring to Warsaw suburban palaces of the 1st quarter of XVII century was built, and this date is considered as the beginning of existence of the palace in Chrzęsne. The new building was placed on the location of the old wooden mansion existing in days of the original owner, Jan Wojsławski.

From its inception until the World War II, Chrzęsne was owned or remained under the care of twelve owners or administrators. Among the characters worthy to remember were Wincenty Koskowski, who has acquired the demesne in 1859, and his youngest daughter Wincentyna Koskowska, who took over the palace after the death of her father.

Architectural Qualities

The most important element of the palace-and-park complex remaining until today is the Late Renaissance building built on a rectangular plan with two distinctive pentagon brakes. Attracts the attention the central part with the rectangular door on the frontal façade, separated by two pilasters bossaged in part of the ground floor. On both sides of the entrance, over which the balcony is located, there are oculi, oval in shape (photo no.1). The façade decoration is complemented by the bossaged corners, window framing, Tuscan pilasters dividing the attic endwalls and toothed cornice above the frieze. The whole is closed from the top by a pediment roof covered with the eramic tiles (photo no. 2).

Also spaces inside the building present themselves interestingly. On the ground floor attract the attention cross-barrel vaults with stucco decoration (photo no. 3), and on the floor there are preserved larch beam ceiling and two Rococo fireplaces (photo no. 4).

The entire complex includes, in addition to the palace, an administrative building (former „czworak” – cottage with four chambers) and reconstructed granary (photo no. 5). Once there were also wooden stables and sizeable cellars.

In the first half of the nineteenth century, a landscape park was created on the foundation of former man-made park landscape. In its heyday, the spatial arrangement of the park was outlined by the main access road that ended up at the courtyard. The clearing, orchard and pond were integrated into the park pathways. Unfortunately, over the time, the park has lost its original character. Axle of the main avenue obliterated, the orchard turned into farmland, and the whole was dominated by self seeding species. The days of grandness are recalled by a few old trees still remaining here, among which there is an oak more than 200 year old.

Koskowski and Karski families

In 1859, the neighbouring estates – Chrzęsne and Mokra Wieś – were bought by Koskowski brothers. Wincenty Koskowski took over Chrzęsne. His wife, Adolfa nee Zambrzycki was the great-granddaughter of Paschalis Jakubowicz, the owner of the famous manufactory of „kontusz sash” in Lipków, the Armenian ennobled by the King Stanisław August Poniatowski.

The Koskowskis had eight daughters, five of which survived to adulthood. The three oldest, Maria, Bronisława and Ewa were born yet in Brańszczyk, former seat of Koskowski family; Stanisław and Wincentyna came into the world already in Chrzęsne. The Koskowskis belonging to the wealthy, landowning nobility properly equipped their daughters. Maria and Stanisława inherited from the childless uncle the neighbouring village Mokra Wieś, Bronisław got Ulasek farm extracted from Chrzęsne. The youngest one, Wincentyna, inherited the palace and demesne in Chrzęsne. Between 1892 and 1898 Wincentyna married Zygmunt Karski, descended from a noble family with roots dating back to the fifteenth century. They had two children, Gabriela and Zygmunt.

Particularly interesting character was the son of Wincentyna and Zygmunt Karski – also Zygmunt. He was born in 1898 in Warsaw, but he spent his childhood and youth in his parents’ house in Chrzęsne. As early as in the days of junior high school he showed interest in literary, and poetic abilities. Published in 1922, the first volume of his poems, however, was unfavourably received by the critics and for the next several years, Karski did not print anything, apart from the poems in French, published during his studies at the Sorbonne. He gave up writing and for some time served as the cultural attaché at the Polish Embassy in Bucharest. After returning to his country, he lived in Chrzęsne, where he also spent the war. After the war, together with his wife moved to Warsaw, where he worked as a translator, and also continued literary work, publishing poems in various literary journals. In 1964, he left for a long time to Paris. Shortly before his death, he returned to Warsaw, where he died in 1967. He was buried in the parish cemetery in Postoliska, and Jarosław Iwaszkiewicz participated in the funeral ceremony. The Palace in Chrzęsne did not belong at that time to the Karskis. Wincentyna with her daughter Gabriela lived on the estate until 1944.

After the war, forced by the communist authorities they left Chrzęsne to return there after their death. They are buried in the parish cemetery in Postoliska.

Miłosz i Ewa Kotarbińscy

Associated with Koskowski family was Miłosz Kotarbiński, a man of high personal culture, painter, co-organizer and later the director of the School of Fine Arts in Warsaw (later ASP).

In the eighties of the nineteenth century Kotarbiński met his future wife, Ewa Koskowska. Around 1885 the painter’s father moved from Czemierniki to Chrzęsne, where he was appointed an administrator of the estate. Ewa – a beautiful, dark-haired owners’ daughter, a „capable pianist playing with great sensitivity romantic musicians” certainly was touched by good manners and artistic culture, as well as better and better position of the painter. Also their passion for music might have had an important role, as also Milosz since his childhood showed interest in music. In effect – as friends say, the painter „found himself a wife through singing”.

It is not exactly known whether Ewa – like her sisters – received from parents any demesne. The Kotarbińskis after the marriage lived in Warsaw. Summer months, Miłosz Kotarbiński with his wife Eve nee Koskowski spent in Chrzęsne. According to the account of Adam Kotarbiński (grandson of Miłosz and Ewa Kotarbiński), his grandparents, staying in Chrzęsne, lived in the so-called „kantorek” forest cottage in the defunct forest near the palace. The mark of those days remains in „Children in the garden”, the painting of Władysław Podkowiński on which the painter depicted sons of Ewa and Miłosz Kotarbiński.

Two children characters portrayed by Władysław Podkowiński have become extremely important for Polish science and culture, later as adults. Older one, then six-year old (with a watering can) is Tadeusz Kotarbiński, later world-renowned philosopher and scholar. The smaller boy is Mieczysław Kotarbiński, the future visual artist, creator of, among others, Józef Piłsudski marshal’s baton.

Julian and Stanisława Maszyński

A close acquaintance and friend of Miłosz Kotarbiński was Julian Maszyński – painter, drawer, illustrator of books.

Most likely Maszyński met the residents of Chrzęsne through a painter Jan Owidzki, kindred with both Koskowski and the Maszyńskis (Owidzki’s sister, Mary, was a sister in law of Maszyński). Perhaps the painter ended up in Chrzęsne through another amateur artist, Tytus Babczyński, who rubbed shoulders with a circle of Warsaw artists, when he lectured at the faculty of mathematics at the Main School of Warsaw, where Maszyński studied.

Babczyński since 1875 was married to one of the Koskowski sisters, so through him the marriage of Maszyński with eighteen years old Stanisława Koskowska, fourth in turn daughter of the owners of Chrzęsne, might have materialized. Thanks to this relationship the painter became co-owner of Mokra Wieś, the estate adjacent to Chrzęsne.

From that moment the Maszyńskis often spent summer months in Mokra Wieś, just as the Kotarbińskis in Chrzęsne.

Władysław Podkowinski

The Palace in Chrzęsne was a home, family seat, as well as the „Mecca” for several artists. However, it should be noted, that as in many manors of the time, the owners of Chrzęsne – mainly through extensive family and social contacts, willingly hosted at home other painters and artists from Warsaw who found here suitable companionship, climate, and finally break from the lush life of the capital.

The first artist that probably appeared in Chrzęsne was Jan Owidzki. This painter, hardly known today, was in his time quite popular illustrator.

In Chrzęsne and near-by Mokra Wieś eagerly spent his summer holidays a leading representative of Polish Impressionism – Władysław Podkowiński. Thanks to the innovative qualities of his works, he has become one of the most popular artistic personalities of his time. Much of his work associated with Impressionism was created just in Chrzęsne. It was here that at that time he was watching and painting portraits, genre scenes and fragments of Mazovian landscapes, later recognized as masterpieces of Polish art.

In the spring of 1891 at the horse races, Julian Maszyński made a proposal to Podkowiński to spend a summer in Mokra Wieś. As previously mentioned, the estate in Mokra Wieś belonged to Maszyński family, but they spent only vacation there. It is believed that Julian Maszyński invited the artist to the village due to his poor health.

The summer spent in Mokra Wieś was a time, when some of the best Podkowiński’s portraits came into being. It was a time when the painter, freed from the problems of everyday existence and direct obligations, was allowed to devote himself to work without any hindrance. He painted a lot at that time. It was just in Chrzęsne and Mokra Wieś that in 1891-1892, such works were created as:

  • „In the garden”,
  • „In gooseberries”
  • „Lupine in the sun”
  • „Mokra Wieś”,
  • „A girl against the background of a garden (Bronisia)”
  • „Orchard in Chrzęsne”
  • „A Meeting”.

„Frenzy of Exultations”

The most famous work of Władysław Podkowiński is „Frenzy of Exultations”, painting of an impressive size 310 cm x 275 cm, a very dynamic composition and intriguing content.

In March 1894, the painting was exhibited in Zachęta. On the first day of the exhibition, the gallery was frequented by about a thousand people. According to press release, during the five-week exhibition, „Frenzy of Exultations” of Podkowiński was seen by twelve thousand spectators, unusual number at that time. Undoubtedly, the atmosphere of scandal accompanying the whole project has contributed to such popularity of work. In late April, the press reported that the painting’s creator came to the exhibition, went up the ladder and cut his work with knife.

The reasons for this act have never been entirely clarified. Podkowiński has never revealed clearly the reasons for his behaviour. “I know that he was in love with someone”- wrote in his memoirs Henryk Jasieński, son of Feliks Jasieński, a friend of the painter. So who was this woman who became such an inspiration for the painter, and which eventuated in painting’s destruction? Doubts are not raised only by the fact that this woman was related to Koskowski family from Chrzęsne. The most often recollected dame is Ewa Kotarbińska, wife of painter’s friend and benefactor, Miłosz Kotarbiński. Eleven years older than the painter, but still beautiful, socially polished and inaccessible, she may become the object of Podkowiński’s affection and unfulfilled dreams.

Probably in 1892, after vacation in Chrzęsne „after fundamental conversation with a loved one, he came to the conclusion that he would never win her, he fell in a park on the grass wet with dew and laid there all the night in despair. It was the beginning of his illness, and developing tuberculosis, contracted indeed by hunger and poverty in the early youth.” Perhaps it was after this conversation that the Maszyńskis and Kotarbińskis brake contacts with the painter, and he spends his next holiday in a completely different part of the country.

The second half of 1895 is the slow dying of an artist with sick body and soul. Illness potentiated by fasting and deliberate catching cold exhausted the artist, who even at that moment did not want to accept any help from Wincentyna Karska. He died at the age of 29 years, January 5th, 1895.

Władysław Podkowiński was a painter of great creative potential. Often seen in his work – although barely sketched, the beginnings of many of the problems of painting typical of the era, and often ahead of this era in Poland. It is worth noting that Chrzęsne and its residents are linked to almost all innovative actions of the artist. It was in Chrzęsne that Podkowiński painted Poland’s first outdoors portrait; its best Impressionist works, these are also landscapes from Chrzęsne and Mokra Wieś. Finally, the most famous symbolic painting of Podkowiński – ” Frenzy of Exultations” – was also inspired by events and people associated with Chrzęsne palace.

Palace history after World War II

After the confiscation of Chrzęsne estate in 1944 by the Treasury, the mansion with neighbouring buildings and approx. 6-hectare park was handed over to the Association of Children’s Friends. An estate with an area of ??about 260 hectares was taken over first by Chrzęsne State Agricultural Enterprise, and then in 1973 by Niegów State Agricultural Enterprise.

After World War II complex’s building were completely renovated. The Palace damaged in 1945, was temporarily secured in 1948-49. Polish Studios for Conservation of Cultural Property in Warsaw (State Enterprise) undertaken the research and design works in the 50-ties of the XX century as part of the project named „Manor in Chrzęsne – reconstruction”. At the beginning of the 60-ties restoration works were carried out and the buildings of the palace were adapted to the needs of the Educational Facility, initially for the boys, and later for the girls. The facility functioned since 1965 until 1997.

In 1959, „Manor Chrzęsne with the equipment and relics of the former park” was recognized legally as a monument and entered in the register of monuments. In 1976, also park in Chrzęsne found itself amongst the cultural assets entered into register of monuments, as an example of a seventeenth-century landscape park in Mazovia. In connection with the administrative reform, the two entries have been combined on 13.05.2005. Currently the palace in Chrzęsne together with a park appears in the register of monuments of Mazowieckie Province under a number A-389.

Adaptation of Chrzęsne palace for educational and cultural purposes

Since 2002 the palace with offices: granary and administrative building, and about 3.5 hectare park stay in possession of the Wołomin District office. In the years 2002-2008 interim securing works were carried out. In 2008, the Wołomin District began efforts to undertake the adaptation works and obtain EU grant for this purpose in the framework of the Regional Operational Programme of the Mazovian Province 2007-2013.

In the years 2009-2014, the extensive construction and maintenance works were carried out in the palace-and-park complex in Chrzęsne. Performed a comprehensive renovation of the palace, granary, administration building, park and fence. At that time, a number of testing was performed in the palace-and-park complex: archaeological, architectural, conservatory and specialist with regard to polychromy, mycology, and dendrology. Adaptation works in the buildings and the park were carried out under the guidance and supervision of the Provincial Conservator. All the works were carried out according to the guidelines based on the principle of respecting and preserving the original material, taking into account the results of the testing and new functional requirements.

The adaptation included execution of construction works among others, in respect of drying walls and foundations, strengthening of walls, ceilings, and lintels, replacement of structure as well as roofing and cladding works. In addition, the restoration and conservation works were carried out with regard to stucco and vaults decoration, larch ceilings and elements of interior and exterior stone work pieces. Historic layout of the interior was restored during the works, while adapting it to new functions.

„Adaptation of Chrzęsne palace” was conducted for the purpose of educational and cultural functions of this complex. Spacious, stylish interiors, decorated with the original elements, provide the perfect setting for exhibitions and expositions of collections gathered there. Landmarked buildings preserved their historical image, while their functionality has been adapted to the needs of the twenty-first century. The object was equipped with modern media, IT and safety systems. It was also adapted to the needs of persons with disabilities.

The value of restoration works in Chrzęsne amounted to ca. 14 million zloty. Restored thanks to the efforts of the Wołomin District and thanks to EU grant, palace-and-park in Chrzęsne regained its former grandness and now is a showcase of the region.