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Tradition / Chopin Institutions / Sites / memorabilia / The Fryderyk Chopin Museum




The Chopin Museum in Warsaw - Collections

The origins of the Fryderyk Chopin Museum in Warsaw date back to the 1930's. The then Fryderyk Chopin Institute, which was formed in 1934 by 32 outstanding members of the country's cultural and political elite, headed by Karol Szymanowski, Emil Młynarski, Stanisław Niewiadomski, Józef Beck and August Zaleski, began amassing a collection as early as 1935. Initially, the Institute purchased thirteen extremely valuable manuscripts from Ludwika Ciechomska, a great-granddaughter of Chopin's sister Ludwika Jędrzejewiczowa and from Bogusław Kraszewski of Stary Kuplin. The manuscripts included a complete working autograph of the G minor Trio op. 8 for piano, violin and cello by Chopin, letters the young composer wrote to his family from Szafarnia in 1824, including four different copies of the famous Kuryer Szafarski, and from Kowalewo dated 6 July 1827, letters to his school friend, Julian Fontana, who was living in Paris (1832?), two cards with nameday greetings for his father (6 December 1816 and 1818, respectively) and one for his mother (16 June 1817), and two dedications for his friend Józef Nowakowski from the Warsaw University Main School of Music, dated June 6th and 9th, 1833. The Polish composer's autographs formed the nucleus of the future Chopin Museum, which after the Second World War became very active. Also a collection of photographs, a collection of recordings, and a library were started prior to 1939. It is worth noting that thanks to the commitment and efforts of Mieczysław Idzikowski, a founding member of the Fryderyk Chopin Institute, and of employees of the Bank of Commerce in Warsaw, these autographs escaped damage during the war.

The Fryderyk Chopin Institute re-opened in 1945. Initially its offices were located at 15 Zgoda St. in Warsaw. In 1953 the Institute was relocated to Ostrogski Castle at 1 Okolnik St., and the Castle also became the home of the museum, the library and the collections of photographs and recordings.

The basic tasks that all museums are expected to carry out include the building up of collections and research on the collected items, the publication of collection catalogues and of the research, the staging of exhibitions (permanent and temporary displays mounted on site and at other locations), and other publishing work. After the Second World War the Chopin Museum's efforts mainly focused on acquiring collections and organising new exhibitions.

The Chopin Museum's collections (manuscripts, printed music with handwritten annotations, memorabilia, iconography, portraits, views of places, and posters), the library collections (books, periodicals, music scores, bills, and press clippings), the recordings (vinyl records, CD's, and magnetic tapes) and the photographs (negatives, prints, and microfilm) have been either purchased, donated, or loaned.

The most valuable museum collections such as Chopin's manuscripts, letters, portraits and mementos have been bought primarily from abroad from antique dealers in Paris (A. Brieux, P. Bères, R. Davis, M. Loliée, R. Legoux, and F. Studzinski), in Tutzing near Munich (H. Schneider), in Geneva (N. Rauch), Brno (Stuker), and Basel (Erasmushaus Haus der Bücher AG). Some have been purchased at auctions held in Germany (in Marburg and Berlin by Klaus and Wolfgang Mecklenburg, the owners of J. A. Stargardt), in France (Hôtel Drouot in Paris and Hôtel des Ventes in Issoudun), Great Britain (at Sotheby's in London) and the United States (at Sotheby's in New York City) as well as from private individuals, for instance, from Arthur Hedley, a collector and a Chopin expert living in London (d.1969), from George Sand's granddaughter Aurora Lauth-Sand, living in Paris, and from Mario Uzielli of Liestal, Switzerland. An exception are the items purchased after the Second World War from Władysław Bichniewicz, a great-grandson of Chopin's oldest sister Ludwika Jędrzejowiczowa (such as the gold watch which the young pianist-composer received from Angelica Catalani in 1820 and an agate cameo with Chopin's profile head by Luigi Isler from circa 1842), from Ewa and Adam Kotula of Cracow (Chopin's letter to Julian Fontana, Nohant, 7 October 1841), from Mieczysław Idzikowski (Chopin's letter to Julian Fontana, Nohant, 8 September 1841) and from Paulina Chromińska of Warsaw (a book with Chopin's signature: J.- F. Bouilly, Les encouragemens (sic!) de la jeunesse, vol. 2, Bruxelles 1821, a gift from the composer's godfather Fryderyk Skarbek, 5 March 1823), and from Jerzy Kniołek of Kobyłka near Warsaw, who, thanks to his aunt Józefa Krawczyk's contacts with Leon Ciechomski of Cracow, became the owner of a large collection of Chopin memorabilia, totalling 160 items.

The objects purchased from Kniołek in the years 1959-1961 and 1963 include, among other things, two letters Chopin wrote to his family from Nohant, [18-]20 July 1845 and from Paris, 8-[9] June 1847, a sketch of the C-minor Nocturne, a sketch in E flat major and Chopin's piano exercises, souvenir notes which Louis Werner, Aloysy Fuchs, Wilhelm Würfel, Leopold E. Czapek, Thomas Tellefsen, Seweryn Gałęzowski and Norbert Alfons Kumelski made in Vienna, 1831, for Chopin, letters addressed to Chopin (from A. C. de Belleville-Oury, S. Horsley, J. Janin, C. S. Norton, E. Shelburne, A. Sartoris, and M. Gibson), letters recommending the composer, for example, in connection with his journey to England in 1848 (from D. Obrescoff and M. Kalergis), letters written by Jane W. Stirling, Delfina Potocka (Paris, 26 [October 1849]), Camille Pleyel (Paris, 12 December 1853), Henry F. Chorley (London, 1? November 1849), Feliks Bentkowski [Warsaw], 4 July [18]48 and Julian Fontana (Paris, 2 July 1852) to Ludwika Jedrzejewiczowa, letters from the publishers - Breitkopf & Haertel of Leipzig and Franz Ries of Dresden, letters from Aleksandra and Maurycy Karasowski to Chopin's younger sister Izabella Barcińska, and Izabella's replies, concerning, among other things, her brother's biography and the re-issues of his works in Leipzig.

Jerzy Kniołek also sold the Chopin Society three drawings by Chopin, his (?) prayer book (La journée du chretien sanctifiée par la prière et la méditation, Varsovie 1783, (with the owner's signature), a book from the composer's library, which the Warsaw Lycée gave Chopin in 1824 in reward for his diligence and good behaviour (G. Monge, Wykład Statyki ..., Warsaw 1820), Chopin's calligraphy exercise book from his school years, three extremely valuable pocket diaries from the years 1834, 1848 and 1849, belonging to Chopin and containing his notes, the first edition of the G-minor Polonaise, issued in 1817 by Father J. J. Cybulski, with a dedication to Wiktoria Skarbek, a plan of Chopin's piano method copied by his sister Ludwika, and three letters that the poet Stefan Witwicki wrote to George Sand - from Freiwaldau (17 December 1844), from Grafenberg (1 January 1846) and from Rome (16 March 1847).

Also worth mentioning are the greeting cards and wishes, that Chopin's sisters, Emilia, Izabella and Ludwika, made for their parents on their actual namedays, as well as Dziennik z podróż do Niemiec, Holandii i Francji (Warsaw, 10 June - Paris, 24 August 1828) - a diary of Ludwika's husband-to-be, Józef Kalasanty Jędrzejewicz, and her thirty two page letter to her husband, starting with the words: "I have offended you inadvertently, and three years of tears and immeasurable suffering have not been enough to placate you..." (Warsaw, after 17 September 1852), as well as an autograph of a rough draft of the speech which Father Jan Dekert delivered at Mikołaj Chopin's funeral on 6 May 1844 in Warsaw's Powązki cemetery.

The Museum collection, whose inventories at the end of 2005 numbered some 5000 items (including 81 loans), includes complete autographs, fragments, sketches, and copies made by members of the composer's family and immediate circle - Marcelina Czartoryska, Mikołaj Chopin, Julian Fontana, Auguste Franchomme, Ludwika Jędrzejewiczowa and Thomas Tellefsen, of the following works or their fragments: Berceuse in D flat major op. 57, Impromptus in A flat major op. 29, F sharp major op. 36 and C sharp minor op. 66, Mazurkas in F minor op. 7 no. 3, G major op. 50 no. 1, A minor op. 67 no. 4 and F minor op. 68 no. 4 (also A. Franchomme's reconstruction of the sketch, made in 1852), Nocturnes in C minor, without an opus number, C minor and F sharp minor op. 48 nos. 1 & 2, the songs, Precz z moich oczu, op. 74 no. 6 composed for the poem by Adam Mickiewicz (first version from 1827), Wojak op. 74 no. 10 and Pierścien op. 74 no. 14 with the lyrics by Stefan Witwicki, Polonaises in D minor, B flat major and F minor op. 71 nos. 1, 2 & 3, Sonatas in B flat minor op. 35, B minor op. 58 and G minor op. 65, the abovementioned Trio in G minor op. 8, Grande Valse Brillante in E flat major op. 18 from 1833, Waltz in F minor op. 70 no. 2, and Variations in B flat major op. 2 on the theme La ci darem la mano from Mozart's Don Giovanni. These autographs and copies provide extremely valuable source material for Polish and foreign researchers and publishers of Chopin's works.

The Chopin Museum also has sketches, which the composer never used in any of his known works, such as figurations, studies in counterpoint, fragments harmonised into chords, fragments of the song Dawny polak (sic!) chodził w portkach and a Romanian song from Walachia, Doÿna Vallach, as well as a refrain from Mazurek Dabrowskiego, harmonised by Chopin in the key of B flat major with a humorous dedication, "from one ignoramus to another", probably for Konstanty Młokosiewicz, a Lieutenant in the Hussars, dated: "Carlsbad 2., Sept. 1835".

Apart from the composer's manuscripts, the Museum collection contains the first French editions of his works, which belonged to his sister Ludwika (three volumes of 45 works), Napoleon Orda (one volume of 11 works), Maria Wodzinska (one volume with opus 24 ) and Pierre Zimmermann (one volume with opus 65). The former three volumes contain handwritten annotations and corrections made in ordinary pencil, mainly by Chopin, while in the latter three (those belonging to Orda, Wodzinska and Zimmermann) Chopin wrote dedications in ink: 1) "Napoleonowi Ordzie / FF. Chopin", 2) "à Mlle Maria Wodzynska [!] / F Chopin", 3) "A son ami Zimmermann / F. Chopin/ Paris 17 febr. 1848". Of these, the most important is the forty-page manuscript of the Piano Quartet in G minor by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (KV 478) and the autographs of works by the 19th century composers: Józef Elsner, Józef Jawurek, Franz Liszt, Józef Wieniawski and Sigismund Thalberg. There are also works (manuscripts and prints) by Carlos Chavez, Oskar Esplá, Bohuslav Martinů, Zygmunt Noskowski, Andrzej Panufnik, Florent Schmitt and Aleksander Tansman, dedicated to Chopin, as well as compositions by Benjamin Godard, Alfred Quidant, and Moritz Rosenthal, dedicated to Ignacy Jan Paderewski.

A large part of the Museum collection is made up of correspondence, which includes the composer's letters (87 items) addressed to his family, acquaintances, friends and pupils (S. Clèsinger, J. Dessauer, J. Fontana, W. Grzymała, A. Gutmann, J. Ch. Kessler, M. Oborski, C. Pleyel, M. de Rozières, G. Sand and her son Maurice, A. Schindler, K. Szulczewski and S. Witwicki) as well as his publishers (Brandus and M. Schlesinger in Paris, Wessel in London and P. Mechetti in Vienna) and to the Belgian composer and theoretician François-Joseph Fétis. There are also letters addressed to Chopin from the generals Józef Bem and Józef Dwernicki, from Gaetano Donizetti, Józef Elsner, Johann P. Pixis and Stefan Witwicki (31), as well as letters mentioning Chopin, written by Klementyna Hoffmanowa neé Tanska to Izabella and Ludwika Chopin, by Paul Gaubert, Adelaïde Kemble and Paulina Viardot to George Sand, by George Sand to Marie de Rozières and by Friederike Streicher neé Müller, and Thomas Tellefsen to Karol Mikuli. This last group of letters is of great value to Chopin's biographers.

Additionally, the Museum collected letters written by composers, singers, pianists, painters, poets, and publishers living in the 19th and 20th century (H. Berlioz, C. Czerny, J. N. Hummel, F. Liszt, G. Meyerbeer, L. Osiński, A. M. Panseron, Z. Rabcewicz, G. A. Rossini, M. Dudevant-Sand, K. Szymanowski, K. Ujejski, H. Wieniawski, S. Witwicki, and W. Żeleński), letters written by members of the family of Chopin's sister Ludwika Jędrzejewiczowa and of Maria Wodzińska, and by persons connected with the Chopin tradition, who lived in the 20th century, for example Ludwika Ciechomska, Lucyna Ciszewska, Teresa Orpiszewska, Włodzimierz Rulikowski, Adam Towiański, Maria and Michał Wodziński.

The Chopin Museum also houses various types of documents handwritten by members of the Chopin family, by Solange Clésinger (her controversial account of the last moments of the composer's life), Johann Baptist Cramer, Józef Elsner and his wife Karolina, Władysław Laskowicz (about the visit Chopin paid Adam Mickiewicz in the last months of 1834), Karol Mikuli (a note about the polyphonic technique of composing the canon) and by General Girolamo Ramorino (an invitation to a soirée, probably for the French poet Marceline Desbordes-Valmore). There are also authentic signatures of Daniel Auber, Izabella Barcińska, Jules Benedict, Luigi Cherubini, Justyna and Mikołaj Chopin, Charles Gavard, Jacques Fromental Halévy, Ludwika Jędrzejewiczowa, Fanny Persiani, Giovanni-Battista Rubini and Antoni Tamburini, and the signatures which participants and jurors of the International Chopin Piano Competitions wrote below their photographs and caricatures and on Competition posters, as well as Chopin's calling cards and cards of persons close to him.

Other valuable items include handwritten, typed or printed materials dealing with the Fryderyk Chopin Institute's activities between 1934 and 1939 (currently continued by the Fryderyk Chopin Society), and a visitors' book, started in 1895, for visitors to Żelazowa Wola, featuring an entry which Chopin's nephew Antoni Jędrzejewicz made on 16 October 1899.

An important part of the collection is the iconography, including portraits, views of the places where Chopin lived or which he visited, as well as posters of Chopin exhibitions, festivals and competitions. The first group mainly comprises portraits and representations of Fryderyk Chopin made between 1826 and 1994, using various techniques (oils, water colours, drawings, engravings, photographs, sculptures, medals, and medallions), portraits of the composer's family, friends and acquaintances, and caricatures and photographs of participants and jurors of the International Chopin Piano Competitions.

Portraits of Chopin include two particularly noteworthy drawings by Eliza Radziwiłłówna from 1826 (?) and 1829 and several oil and watercolour portraits by Chopin's friend Teofil Kwiatkowski, including the extremely valuable canvas entitled The Last Moments of Chopin, also showing the composer's sister Ludwika, his pupil Marcelina Czartoryska, his friends Wojciech Grzymała and Father Aleksander Jełowicki, and the painter.

Of special interest in the Museum collection is the furniture and other items from Prof. Józef Żurawlew's study and the professor's archive, which his wife Anna donated to the Fryderyk Chopin Society in 1984 (Prof. Żurawlew was the founder of the International Chopin Piano Competition).

The Museum collection would not be so extensive and precious were it not for the gifts from the National Museum in Warsaw (among other things, Chopin's last piano), from Artur Rubinstein, Marek Keller, Pierre Charpentier, Stefan Czarnecki, Roman Sanguszko and Karol Smólski from Paris, Julian Godlewski from Zurich, Arthur Hedley from London, Karol Liszniewski from Cincinnati, Christian Zabriskie from New York, Bohdan Marconi and Zygmunt Mycielski from Warsaw, members of Karol Mikuli's family from Gorlice and Cracow, Jerzy Kniołek from Kobyłka near Warsaw, Aurora Lauth-Sand from Nohant, George Smeets-Sand from Gargillesse, Henryk Bogusławski from Rome, the National Bank of Poland, PKO Bank Polski S.A., the PKN Orlen Polish Oil Company, the Polmos Siedlce Distillery, the Galerie Proutè from Paris (some forty 19th century engravings) and the Ministry of Culture and Art, with whose help the Museum collection has been systematically enlarged over the years.

The library and the collections of recordings and photographs are of enormous significance to scholars researching the life and works of Fryderyk Chopin and to people disseminating knowledge about Chopin more widely. The photographs have been especially helpful, among other things, in the publication of Rękopisy utworów Chopina. Katalog, prepared by Krystyna Kobylańska (Kraków 1977, TIFC and PWM), Katalog dzieł Fryderyka Chopina by Józef Chomiński and Teresa Dalila Turło (Kraków 1990, TIFC and PWM), the facsimile edition of the autographs of the Polonaise in F minor [Op. 71 no. 3], the Mazurka in F minor Op. 7 no. 3, the Waltz in E flat major Op. 18, the Impromptu in A flat major Op. 29, the Berceuse in D flat major Op. 57, the Mazurka F minor [op. 68 no. 4], and of Chopin's letters to his family from Szafarnia, to Wojciech Grzymała from Hamilton in Scotland, and to Ludwika Jędrzejewiczowa from Paris. This edition used the original autographs kept in the Chopin Museum in Warsaw, with commentaries by Zofia Chechlińska, Teresa Czerwińska, Wojciech Nowik and Hanna Wróblewska-Straus (Warsaw TIFC and Romega Press, 1999-2000). Another edition is Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's Quartet in g-moll für Klavier, Violone, Viola and Violoncello KV 478, with an introduction by Faye Ferguson (The Chopin Society of Salzburg and the Internationale Stiftung Mozarteum in Salzburg, 1991).


The Drawing Room of the Chopin Family
a branch of the Chopin Museum in Warsaw

The Chopins' Drawing Room in the Czapski (former Krasinski) Palace at 5 Krakowskie Przedmiescie Street was reconstructed in 1960 by the Fryderyk Chopin Society of Warsaw. Viewed from Krakowskie Przedmieście, it is located in the left wing of the palace1. The three previous apartments of the Polish pianist in Warsaw, in Jan Gottlieb Bohm's property in Krakowskie Przedmieście Street (leasehold registry no.4112), in the right (?) wing of the Saski Palace (leasehold registry no.413) and in the right wing of the Kazimierzowski Palace (commonly called the Former Rectors' Building, leasehold registry no.394; second entrance, second floor), have not been reconstructed, although a commemorative plaque has been placed on the right wing of the Kazimierzowski Palace, which at present houses Warsaw University's Institute of Oriental Studies.

The seventeen-year old Fryderyk moved with his parents and sisters, Ludwika and Izabella, to the Krasiński Palace in 1827 after the death of the Chopins' youngest daughter Emilia on April the 10th that year. Fryderyk lived there until November the 2nd 1830, for on that day he left Poland, which later turned out to be a permanent exile. He had his own room, which he described in a letter of Saturday, December the 27th 1828 to his close friend Tytus Woyciechowski in Poturzyn: "There is a room upstairs which is supposed to make me very comfortable; stairs lead up to it from the dressing room. I am to have my old piano and writing desk moved in there. It will be my hidey-hole."

These surroundings were conducive to creative work and bore fruit in the form of both piano Concertos, the E minor op. 11 and the F minor op. 21, which were first performed to the accompaniment of a quintet in the Drawing Room. In a letter to Woyciechowski of November the 14th 1829 the composer mentioned several etudes: "I have written some exercises, which, I think, I would play well in your presence". Also at that time (1827-1830) Chopin wrote the Variations in B flat major op. 2 on La ci darem la mano from the opera Don Giovanni by W. A. Mozart, and dedicated this piece to Tytus Woyciechowski. He also composed the Sonata in C minor op. 4, which he dedicated to his professor Józef Elsner and the Nocturne in E minor op. 72 no. 1, plus some waltzes, songs and mazurkas.

The Chopin Drawing Room was frequented by the young composer's school friends from the Warsaw Lycée and the Warsaw University Main School of Music, and by his parents' boarders and acquaintances. Wojciech Żywny, Fryderyk's first and only piano teacher, was also a frequent guest of the Chopins.

The interior of the Drawing Room, to which new objects were added in 1969, was arranged according to a reproduction of a drawing by Antoni Kolberg from 1832, the only historical source, which unfortunately is now lost. The task of furnishing it was not easy because nothing from the original interior of the Chopins' apartment had survived. However, the Empire writing desk belonged to the family of Chopin's older sister, Ludwika Jędrzejowiczowa. The rest is period furniture carefully selected to look as close to the originals as possible. As well as the bric-à-brac, the exhibition includes portraits of Fryderyk, of his parents Justyna and Mikołaj Chopin, and of his sisters Ludwika and Izabella by Jan Zamoyski made in 1969 from reproductions of the 1829 portraits by Ambroży Mieroszewski, which went missing during the Second World War. There are likenesses of Wojciech Żywny, including one which Jadwiga Kunicka-Bogacka reconstructed in 1969, based on an 1829 portrait by A. Mieroszewski, and there is also a lithograph of Józef Elsner by Maksymilian Fajans after his own drawing from around 1850.

There are miniatures by Anna Chamiec from 1968 and 1973 depicting Karol Kurpiński, the composer, teacher and conductor, directing the concert which Chopin gave on March the 5th 1830 at the National Theatre, as well as of Emilia Chopin, and Izabella Barcińska née Chopin and her husband Antoni. A series of engravings by Fryderyk Krzysztof Dietrich, from about 1827, offer views of Warsaw in Chopin's day.

There are two pianofortes and an upright piano in the Drawing Room. The older pianoforte originates from 1827-1830 and was made by Fryderyk Buchholtz in Warsaw. A Buchholtz piano, which originally stood in the Drawing Room, was destroyed in 1863. This event was described in Fortepian Chopina (Chopin's Piano), a moving poem by the Polish romantic poet Cyprian Kamil Norwid. The other pianoforte, a French made Erard from 1856, belonged to Franz Liszt, according to the Marquise D. Cadavall of Portugal, who donated it. Tradition has it that the upright piano, a 1855 Pleyel made in Paris, was used by Chopin's friend and publisher Julian Fontana, and by Ignacy Jan Paderewski and Karol Szymanowski.

Hanna Wróblewska Straus

English translation: Jerzy Ossowski

1 Two iconographic sources: (1) a reproduction of Antoni Kolberg's 1832 drawing The Chopins' Drawing Room in the Krasiński Palace, complete with a description of its location (cf. Leopold Binental, Chopin. W 120-tą rocznicę urodzin. Dokumenty i pamiątki, Warsaw 1930, il. 37 and (2) Antonio Verico's engraving from a drawing by Fryderyk K. Dietrich showing a section of Krakowskie Przedmieście Street including the left wing of the Krasiński Palace (the Fryderyk Chopin Museum's collection, property of the Fryderyk Chopin Society, inventory no. M/1089), lead us to locate the Drawing Room in the right rather than the left wing of the palace when viewed from the street.

2 Hanna Wróblewska-Straus, Katarzyna Markiewicz, Fryderyk Chopin i bracia Kolbergowie na tle epoki. Przyjaźń. Praca. Fascynacje, exhibition catalogue, Warsaw 2005, p. 89; H. Wróblewska-Straus, Nota biograficzna: Chopin Justyna Izabella in: Zofia Helman, Zbigniew Skowron, Hanna Wróblewska-Straus, Korespondencja Fryderyka Chopina, vol. I, 1816-1831, Warsaw 2009, p. 551.


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