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The Things of Warsaw / Room of Portraits

Portrait of Marie Casimire Sobieska (1641–1716), Queen of Poland

Portrait of Marie Casimire Sobieska (1641–1716), Queen of Poland

The portrait by an unknown painter, purchased to the collection of the Historical Museum of the City of Warsaw (today’s Museum of Warsaw) in 1973, shows Maria Kazimiera Sobieska (Marie Casimire de La Grange d’Arquien, Marysieńka, 1641–1716,
Queen of Poland 1676–1696) in a private space. The ermine mantle, a symbol of royal splendour, falls down from her arms to reveal a very bold neckline and laced lingerie. A little dog that accompanies the Queen is a symbol of marital faithfulness – the painting was probably created for the King. The intimate boudoir character of the image should not obscure the fact that it presents a woman of great ambitions and political talent.

Queen Maria Kazimiera was one of the most intriguing women in Polish history. In 1645, she arrived in Warsaw as a little girl in the retinue of Marie Louise Gonzaga (1611–1667, Queen of Poland since 1646), who became the spouse of Ladislaus IV Vasa (1595–1648, King of Poland 1632–1648). During her time at the court of the ambitious queen, Maria Kazimiera witnessed politics, intrigues and the mechanisms of establishing woman’s influence in a world of power dominated by men. In 1658, she was wedded to Jan Zamoyski (1627–1665), Voivode of Sandomierz. Yet, already at that time she was interested in militant and ambitious Jan Sobieski (1629–1696, King of Poland (1674–1696). Zamoyski’s death several years after the wedding opened up the possibility of another marriage.

Maria Kazimiera and Sobieski shared not only love, but also great ambition. They were a married couple who worked together for the political success of the family. It was the diplomatic talent of Maria Kazimiera that attracted attention of the French ambassador, Toussaint de Forbin-Janson (1631–1713), looking for a pro-French candidate to the Polish throne during the election in 1674. Sobieski was elected king, and Maria Kazimiera supported him throughout the entire life. An example of her woman’s diplomacy was the decision to send an unofficial ambassador Małgorzata Kotowska (1646–1699) to the Austrian imperial court with a view to building an anti-Turkish coalition in 1680. Following King John III’s passing, a faction that was hostile towards Maria Kazimiera ordered her to leave Warsaw for the period of the Election Sejm, the convention of gentry aimed at the election of a new king, for fear of her influence. The Queen soon left Poland – she first went to Rome, and two years prior to her death she settled down in Blois, France. Maria Kazimiera was a prime mover and funder of many buildings in Warsaw, an active co-founder of the palace complex in Wilanów – the royal seat of King John III Sobieski designed by Augustin Locci (1601–1661). It was upon the Queen’s initiative that the multi-functional commercial and service complex Marywil was created; she also funded one of the most characteristic buildings of Warsaw’s New Town – the St. Casimir Church of the Sisters of the Holy Sacrament. The name of Marymont, a quarter within the Warsaw district of Żoliborz, originates from Queen Maria Kazimiera’s name – it used to be a hill on which a summer palace was raised for her. The above mentioned buildings were designed by Tylman Van Gameren (1632–1706).

Portrait of Marie Casimire Sobieska (1641–1716), Queen of Poland
WARSAW (?); 1680S
MHW 17849
89,2 × 74 CM