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Polish Museum Gets Mysterious Package in the Mail With Missing Tiles From the 17th Century

Many of Europe's most beautiful buildings were sadly lost or damaged during World War II. But in a twist of fate, a Polish palace has been able to piece together one of its most enchanting features—almost literally. Poland’s culture ministry announced that it recently got a mysterious package in the mail. Inside was a set of priceless missing tiles from the 17th century. The pieces once decorated Warsaw's Palace on the Isle, which today is the Royal Łazienki Museum.

The tiles were part of a Baroque bathing pavilion commissioned by Polish nobleman and writer Stanisław Herakliusz Lubomirski towards the end of the 17th century. In 1764, almost four decades after the politician's passing, it was purchased and expanded by Poland’s king, Stanisław August, who turned it into private quarters. Unfortunately, in the final years of WWII, the Nazis damaged and set fire to the interior of the Palace, aiming to demolish it with explosives—a plan that luckily was never carried out.

But among all the destruction, a set of 12 tiles escaped the destruction. The tiles, striking examples of 17th-century Dutch ceramic, boast a pattern depicting trees and shepherds in white and blue. It is believed they were produced in Utrecht between 1690 and 1700.

“According to art historians, such tiles became a sign of the host’s financial status, and the fashion was initiated by the French court in Versailles,” says Science in PolandThe publication also spoke to Agata Zawora, a representative to the museum, who explained the journey of the tiles. “During the war or immediately after it, the collection was dispersed,” Zawora said. “The missing tiles were reconstructed only after the war. The recovered elements of the original design of the Baths are extremely valuable monuments for us.”

As such, curators were elated when these tiles showed up in the mail ahead of a new exhibition about Lubomirski. Shortly before opening, the museum got a package from Canada. The anonymous sender “had asked for their return just before his death,” according to a post shared by Poland’s culture ministry on Facebook. It remains unclear how these objects wounded up on the other side of the Atlantic, but the ministry has now launched an investigation.

While many of the pieces were broken, this didn't lessen the excitement of their return. “Mystery package, missing tiles, and happy ending,” added the ministry. “This story is a ready-made scenario for a movie.”

The tiles have since been reassembled together to the extent their condition allowed and are now on display as part of The Art of Thinking Well: The Legacy of Stanisław Herakliusz Lubomirski, an exhibition in celebration the politician, which runs through September 1, 2024.

A mysterious package containing 17th-century tiles missing from a place in Warsaw was recently delivered to Poland’s culture ministry.

h/t: [Smithsonian Magazine]

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Regina Sienra

Regina Sienra is a Staff Writer at My Modern Met. Based in Mexico City, Mexico, she holds a bachelor’s degree in Communications with specialization in Journalism from the National Autonomous University of Mexico. She has 10+ years’ experience in Digital Media, writing for outlets in both English and Spanish. Her love for the creative arts—especially music and film—drives her forward every day.
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