For some time now, there have been rumours that our Museum is inhabited by ghosts, which each night (when the visitors have left and all the lights are off), pass through the walls and walk through the galleries, visiting each other. If you are curious about the details and have nerves of steel, read on.
Sometimes, when a corner of a room goes unnoticed by our cleaning ladies, and hides a cobweb (which happens very, very rarely), a careless spirit might get trapped in the web and can’t get out by itself. In these situations, other ghosts help it extricate itself from the trap so that no one can discover their secret and so that they can all return to their paintings before sunrise.
The ghosts constantly argue about which one is the most important in the whole Museum, which one best slams the door or makes the floor creak.
This year, during the Night of Museums – which witnesses things that can in no way happen during ordinary nights – we decided to end their bickering once and for all, and to vote for the most scariest resident of the Gallery of 20th– Century Polish Art. The selection was to be made by the children, though it turned out that the adults were equally intrigued by the process.
We asked our visitors to vote for one of the five preselected ghosts. Everyone who wanted to cast their vote had the opportunity to meet their candidate in person – by standing face to face with… a painting. The choice-making process was facilitated by descriptions, in which each ghost tried to present the most terrible aspect of its character.
The winner of that special night was the ghost of King Casimir the Great from the design for the stained glass window by Stanisław Wyspiański, but we would like to encourage you to continue visiting our Museum Ghosts candidates – preferably in person in the Gallery of 20th– Century Polish Art in the Main Building.
Just in case, we feel obliged to remind you that the ghosts are more afraid of people than we are afraid of them. Therefore, if you wander through the Museum halls and you manage to see one, please try not to scare it away. A terrified ghost will run away and never come back, and no museologist wants his museum to lose its spirit.
If you want to cast your vote for one of the five selected candidates, you can still do so. We encourage you to leave your opinions in the comments section.
And here is the line-up of our ghosts:
The ghost of the Spanish king’s daughter, Margaret Theresa, is extremely fond of fun. The princess enjoys playing tricks and hide and seek, so she likes to appear on numerous artists’ canvas (she really mastered the art of bilocation). Her first appearance was in the painting by Diego Velazquez – one of the greatest Spanish painters of the seventeenth century (although her fondest memory is from a visit to Pablo Picasso’s atelier, as she considers herself a modern girl, open to new trends in art).
Tadeusz Kantor, One evening the Valazquez’s Infanta entered my room / (for the second time), 1990
CASIMIR THE GREAT
A dignified ghost of the great ruler who reigned in the Wawel castle many years ago. Even after his death, he still wears a crown on his head never forgets his sceptre. Although today we can count his bones, we cannot count his achievements for Krakow and Poland on the fingers of even both his hands.
Stanisław Wyspiański, Casimir the Great. Design for the stained glass window for the chancel of the Krakow cathedral, [1899-1900]
This horned satyr is actually not a ghost, but rather a forest demon, half-animal and half-human. It does not stop him, however, from taking part in our competition. Satyrs are famous for their confidence and love of competition. A distant cousin of our satyr, named Marsyas, once courageously participated in a music contest with the Greek god Apollo – and then regretted it dearly… At night, the sounds of melodies unknown to mortals, played on the flute by the satyr from Jacek Malczewski’s painting, echo through the museum walls.
Jacek Malczewski, The Unknown Note, 1902
A JAPANESE WOMAN
This woman, once called Wanda, was the painter’s wife, muse and his faithful life companion. For the last 107 years, however, she has lived a different life, in which she comes from the Land of the Rising Sun. She appears unnoticed. With her small, but smooth steps of a Geisha, she silently traverses our gallery halls. She represents the fascination with the Far East and the Orient, popular among the artists active at the beginning of the twentieth century. She is a beauty and a mystery at the same time – nobody knows what her face is hiding. She is ideally suited to play the role of a white, or actually red, lady of the Krakow Museum.
Józef Pankiewicz, A Japanese Woman, 1908
They are gathered under the water surface, which serves as the border between two worlds. The crystal-clear depth hide shapes, which those above its surface can only dream of. Creatures with clawed and webbed feet, wide fish mouths and dreamy gazes tempt the onlookers with the vivid colours of their bodies, though – according to all the myths and stories – they already belong to the world of the dead. The ideal protective and scary ghosts – just as they guard the sunken gold, they will never give away the treasures of our Museum.
Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz, Drowned Women, 1921
Marysia Masternak & Jagoda Gumińska-Oleksy