The Warsaw Voice » Other » Monthly - July 3, 2003
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Tylman van Gameren of Warsaw
He looked like one of Raphael's cupids; a surviving self-portrait shows a boyish face, topped by a puff of hair as soft as mist. The great artist Tylman (1632-1706) was born in the small Dutch town of Gameren.

He received a rigorous education, studying various subjects in several important European academic centers. At 29, he accepted the proposal to come to Poland extended by the great magnate Stanisław Herakliusz Lubomirski. Tylman felt so at home in Poland that he stayed until the end of his life. He was raised to the rank of nobility and married in Warsaw. In his quiet home, he designed great and lasting works; from his hand came the Palace of the Polish Republic. The building was damaged by the Germans during World War II; most valuable archival documents, papers and books of kings, their correspondence-the palace's treasured collections of old prints, autographs, paintings and national mementos-all went up in smoke. Reconstructed after the war, the building today houses the special collection of the National Library. Opposite this palace in Krasińskich Square stands the modern building of the law court and a monument to the Warsaw Uprising.

Tylman van Gameren is the architect behind many buildings in Warsaw and elsewhere. He designed the churches of St. Boniface, the Order of the Holy Sacrament; the palaces of the Gniński family-today known as the Ostrogski family palace; Andrzej Morsztyn's manor house, on the site of which the Saski Palace was later raised, and then ruined during the war; he designed for Lubomirski the Łazienka-today the Palace on the Water; as well as the no longer existing Marywil.

St. Kazimierz's Church of the Holy Sacrament Order Nuns on the New Town Square was built to commemorate King Jan III Sobieski's victorious defense of Vienna, where he defeated the Turks. The church vaults are the resting place of Sobieski's granddaughter-the last in the line-and the king's son Jan.

At 2 Czerniakowska St., Tylman built the Bernardine Church, founded by Lubomirski. Although situated somewhat off the main tourist routes, the church has much worth seeing, including stuccos by Giorgioli, lovely frescos illustrating the church's history, and the historical reliquary of St. Boniface, the parish patron-presented to Lubomirski by Pope Innocent XVI. The church was partly damaged during the Warsaw Uprising in 1944. The reconstruction was completed in 1956.

The image of Warsaw, a city that suffered great damage during the war, would have been much poorer if not for the palaces designed by Tylman. Those existing today, though reconstructed after the war, include the Ostrogski Palace. Turning from Świętokrzyska Street to the east is an unusual, large building, today housing the Frédéric Chopin Society. In the past it was the Main School of Music; students included Ignacy Jan Paderewski, the world-famous Polish pianist, composer and statesman.

Another work by Tylman van Gameren was the grand urban project known as Marywil, on the site of today's Teatralny Square and Wielki Theater. A miniature city within the city, Marywil was named in honor of Maria, the wife of Jan III Sobieski. This complex of many buildings included stores, print houses, and even editorial offices and advertisement offices, then called kantor. Michał Gröll, a bookseller and publisher from Germany, published in Marywil as many as eight periodicals in various languages. Marywil, in decline, was demolished at the beginning of the 19th century during theater construction work, and also because of the danger it presented: the buildings were already in a very bad condition.

The Łazienka, built specially for the patron and artist Lubomirski, and later reconstructed by Dominik Merlini as today's Palace on the Water, belonged to the last king of Poland, Stanisław August Poniatowski.

Tylman died in Warsaw and was buried in the Dominican Observant Friars' Church on Krakowskie Przedmieście Street, on the site of today's Staszic Palace and Copernicus monument. There is a tragic story connected with the church: the shrine was pulled down at the order of Grand Duke Constantine, the brother of the tsar who ruled in Poland under Russia; during mass, a young priest committed suicide on the altar steps. This dramatic event started to attract crowds, and Constantine feared patriotic demonstrations; Poland presented a menace to the tsarist authorities of Russia, so he ordered the church pulled down. It was short work, and one year later construction started on the Staszic Palace, named in honor of the great scholar and founder of the edifice.

So, the mortal remains of Tylman van Gameren, or Tylman Gamerski of Warsaw, as his contemporaries used to call him, found no eternal resting place.

Danuta Szmit-Zawierucha