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Obiekt kwartału

Obiekt kwartału

The Quarterly Exhibit is a series of articles published by the Jagiellonian University Museum to present its collection. Each article is meant to share knowledge about the exhibits which usually are not shown to the public. This month's feature are the "Estreicher heads" embedded in the decoration of the canopy located over the rector's seat. The history of the object is explained by Róża Książek-Czerwińska from the Museum Collection Department.

The courtyard located between the Collegium Maius and Collegium Nowodworskiego buildings, named The Estreicher’s Corner in 2024, has images portraying the creator of the JU Museum among its decorations — a bust and a double portrait displayed on the gable wall, painted in style of historical foundational paintings and depicting Saint Charles Borromeo and Professor Estreicher kneeling at his feet. Estreicher had a personal connection with Cracow’s Alma Mater not just as the spiritual father of the Museum but also as a descendant of a distinguished family of JU professors. The Cracow dynasty of Estreichers started with Karol’s great-great-grandfather, Dominik Oestreicher of Moravia. Before fate brought him to the capital of Lesser Poland, he had studied painting in Vienna, Venice, Naples, and Rome. In the Eternal City, he made friends with Hugo Kołłątaj, Sebastian Sierakowski, and Franciszek Smuglewicz. The new acquaintances were to determine the future of the artist and his offspring. The fate of the Estreicher family became intertwined both with Cracow and its University. Before his arrival in the former royal capital, Dominik spent three years at the court of King Stanisław Poniatowski. In 1780, he moved to Cracow and became a professor painting the Nowodworski Schools under the patronage of the University. Besides lecturing, he created paintings and wall decorations, and added Chinese-style lacquer decorations to various objects (the JUM Treasury currently features a table, fans, and crockery decorated by Estreicher). His son, Alojzy Estreicher, became even more involved in Polish matters. Not only he had to endure political repressions due to supporting students involved in the November Uprising but also he changed his family name into a Polish one. Alojzy studied several fields at the JU. Even though he had a doctorate in medicine, he focused on botany. In 1808, he became a professor of natural history and botany, and two years later he defended his doctoral thesis in philosophy. He was elected as a faculty dean two times and once as the rector. Estreicher also managed the Botanical Garden for several years. During a trip to Sikornik near Cracow he discovered a new insect species, known today as the Carabus Estreicherii. His portrait is the displayed in the Jagiellonian Hall over the portal with an inscription engraved on the behalf of his great-nephew, Plus ratio quam vis, presently the motto of the Jagiellonian University.

The same hall features another noteworthy portrait of a botanist created at the time of Museum’s opening. In 1962, Karol Estreicher commissioned from Zygmunt Pabisiak four depictions of clay head which were replicated in wood and inlaid into the decoration of the canopy hanging over the rector’s stalls. The images refer to the oldest University faculties: the first from the left has the features of Alojzy Estreicher (medicine), the one next to it resembles his son, Karol Senior (philosophy), another one his grandson (father of the Museum’s founder) Stanisław (law), and the last one depicts Albin Dunajewski (theology). Karol Estreicher Junior posed for the last head as a relative of Dunajewski. In 1962, he wrote in his diary about the planned canopy design: “This was my idea to celebrate the Estreicher family tied to the University for almost 200 years. Naturally, I didn’t tell anyone to avoid criticism”.

One of the five portraits in the Assembly Hall commemorating professors who were victims of the German concentration camps depicts Stanisław Estreicher, who served three times as dean and once as rector. Right next to it hangs on the wall an effigy of Karol Estreicher Senior by Leon Wyczółkowski (in the Library, a bust chiseled by Wacław Szymanowski). There are more family references to be found. The exhibition, which highlights the history of the university, is encrusted with mementoes of the Estreichers. One of the rooms is devoted to the memory of Ambroży Grabowski, Karol's great-grandfather, the spiritual predecessor to Józef Łepkowski, founder of the Archaeological Cabinet which gave rise to the Jagiellonian University Museum. And so history comes full circle. After Karol's death, two portraits of him were placed in the museum rooms. Karol Estreicher Senior, as Director of the Jagiellonian University, lived in the Collegium Maius for over forty years with his family and his beloved dog Dżimus. The oldest building thus became his family nest. By hanging portraits of his ancestors next to portraits of scholars and kings, he marked their contribution to the history of the University. The foundation portrait from Estreicher's Corner caused considerable excitement. Before the planned inspection, he replaced it with an image of Jadwiga of Anjou painted on the spot by Zdzisław Pabisiak. Shortly before his retirement in 1976, the double portrait of the two Karols was returned to its place, while the image of the monarch was lost.



Text: Róża Książek-Czerwińska, Museum Collection Department


Additional information

"Alojzy R. Estreicher" (1786-1852), Feliks Szynalewski.  JU Museum collection.

"Karol J.T. Estreicher senior" (1827-1908), Leon Wyczółkowski, Cracow TPSP Deposit.

"Karol R. Estreicher jun." (1906-1984), Jerzy Duda-Gracz. JU Museum collection.

"St. Charles Boromeo with Karol Estreicher Jr.”, Zdzisław  Pabisiak.

Painting displayed on the facade of Collegium Maius near the Estreicher's Corner. JU Museum collection.

Photos by Mateusz Kozina (rector's stalls), Janusz Kozina (photos of portraits)


A. Piskorz, Silva Rerum. Pamiątki Akademickie ze zbiorów Muzeum Uniwersytetu Jagiellońskiego. Katalog wystawy: Collegium Maius (XII 1997 – I 1998), Kraków 1997

A. Chwalba, Collegium Maius, Kraków 2009

S. Waltoś, Na tropach doktora Fausta i inne szkice, Warszawa 2004

K. Estreicher, Dziennik wypadków ( t.3), Kraków 2003