Antiques and “Fake” Ruins in Poland

The Nachleben of ancient monuments is often as fascinating as the story of their original use and context. In the days of the Grand Tour, many antiques ended up in the private collections of the rich and powerful across Europe. This not only adds another dimension to the objects’ history, but can also make visiting them a bit more colourful than your ordinary trip to the museum. I’ve just visited one such collection at Nieborow and the associated park of Arkadia, 80 km west of Warsaw in Poland.

"Fake" Aqueduct at Arkadia
“Fake” Roman aqueduct in the Arkadia park, Poland. Photo: TMK, July 2007.

The palace’s collection of antiques is certainly not the biggest there is. It also contains several ‘forgeries’, but this is not really the point. The setting, the personal playground of the Radziwill family, is the real attraction here. Of classical interest, it includes a reconstructed Roman circus (for leisurely walks, I imagine) complete with obelisk and spina, a Roman aqueduct and the wonderfully eccentric “High Priest Sanctuary”, an extreme example of monumental bricolage. Over time, these “fake” ancient monuments have become archaeological sites themselves as they have been neglected and re-discovered. And the site lives on, as it has now become a favourite Sunday jaunt for Polish families. In that sense it still holds true to its name of Arcadia.

"Temple of Diana" in Arkadia
The so-called “Temple of Diana” in Arkadia, Poland. Photo: TMK, July 2007.

T. Mikocki. 1995. Collection de la Princesse Radziwill. Les Monuments Antiques et Antiquisants d’Arcadie et du Ch√Ęteau de Nieborow. Wroclaw/Warsaw/Krakow: Polska Akademia Nauk.

A. Jaskulska-Tschierse, J. Kolendo & T. Mikocki. 1998. Arcadiana. Arcadia in Poland. An 18th Century Antique Garden and its Famous Sculptures. Warsaw: Institute of Archaeology, Warsaw University.

T. Mikocki & W. Piwkowski (eds.) 2001. Et In Arcadia Ego. Muzeum Ksiezny Heleny Radziwillowej. Warsaw: Muzeum Narodowe w Warszawie.

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