Discovery of Centuries-Old Paintings at Sarny Castle

A marvellously preserved painted ceiling from the 17th century was discovered this month during renovation work at Sarny Castle, in Lower Silesia in southwestern Poland.

This discovery, as well as the unveiling of new pieces of wall decoration, highlights artistic and historical value of the landmark whose history goes back to 1590.

Painted ceiling from the 17th century, discovered in September 2020

The ceiling was discovered during demolition work in one of the castle buildings. For two centuries it had been covered with wooden boards in a modest-looking wing of the castle.

“These paintings are incredibly well preserved on the beams and ceiling boards, in a rich program painted by hand, not from a stencil,” said Inga Widlińska, PhD candidate at the Academy of Fine Arts in Krakow.

In the rooms with the newly discovered ceiling, relics of ceiling friezes and fragments of sgraffito from 1590 were also found. The ceiling will be preserved and the interior will be arranged as a museum.

The Krakow team of conservation specialists led by Inga Widlińska, part of the Department of Conservation and Restoration of Wall Paintings of Krakow’s Academy of Fine Arts, also in September discovered more wall paintings in the palace, first found in 2019 during a survey.

A chalice, part of a painting uncovered in September 2020 in a dining hall at Sarny Castle

This year, they uncovered more of the late-Baroque decoration of the piano nobile living room. Larger pieces of decorations from the beginning of the 19th century were also uncovered, some of the few preserved painting decorations from that period in the region. Goblets and floral motifs were revealed in the room that is thought to have once served as the dining hall.

More 17th-century paintings were also uncovered on the ground floor of the residence, confirming they are in excellent condition. In 2021, the trust taking care of Sarny Castle intends to carry out conservation work of the rooms and open them to the public.

The work on the paintings in 2020 was supported by the Landmark Protection Authority of Lower Silesia.

Late-Baroque paintings in the 1st-floor drawing room

Until 2013, Sarny Castle was a ruin, with collapsed wooden ceilings and a heavily damaged roof. Since 2014, it’s been a site of comprehensive renovation.

The Gatehouse with a café has been in operation since 2017. Its opening gave access to the Chapel of St. John of Nepomuk, decorated with a great Baroque painting from 1738. In 2020, the first farm building with guest rooms opened to the public.

The renovation effort is a challenge due to the extensive damage and the size of the compound. In 2016, new floors were rebuilt in the palace and the tower’s cupola was renovated. In 2018, the palace roof was reconstructed. As of 2020, the roof is being covered with stone slate.

Early 19th-century decoration in the 1st floor drawing room

Despite the decrepitude of the last few decades, Sarny Castle has decorations that span the several hundred years of its existence.

“Contrary to the recent perception of this house as a ruin, it turns out that the level of authenticity is very high,” Barbara Nowak-Obelinda, Chief Landmark Protection Officer of Lower Silesia, wrote in a Facebook post.

The foundation in charge of Sarny Castle is carrying out renovation works with the financial support from the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage, the Lower Silesian Voivodeship and the Lower Silesian Landmark Protection Authority.

A list of Norway Grants beneficiaries is set to be announced in September. The foundation has applied for approximately 6.5 million zlotys ($1.7 million) in funding to renovate the Chapel of St. John of Nepomuk as well as the 1660 castle granary.




Photos: CC BY Fundacja Odbudowy Dworu Sarny