The Mickiewicz family memorabilia collection

A precious section within the repertory of the Polish Historical and Literary Society / the Polish Library in Paris

The Mickiewicz family memorabilia collection is a precious section within the repertory of the Polish Historical and Literary Society / the Polish Library in Paris. Some of the objects—Adam Mickiewicz’s quill pen, his wife Celina’s pince-nez, or the couple’s wedding rings—are available for viewing at the Adam Mickiewicz Museum which is housed at the Library in Paris. The Museum was established in 1903 by the poet’s son, Władysław, back then the Library’s director. The Mickiewicz family collection contains over one hundred artefacts related to the daily life and work of Adam Mickiewicz, his relatives and friends. It also documents the history of the poet’s romantic affairs—both major and fleeting ones. In this gallery, we present forty of the most fascinating objects from the collection, the majority of which are usually not available for viewing. Our guests may admire, among others, precious jewellery, a lock of Napoleon’s hair or the razor Adam Mickiewicz used for shaving. The layout of the memorabilia displayed in the gallery corresponds to the rhythm of the poet’s pilgrim-like existence—from his childhood in Lithuania and the years spent at the University in Vilna, through his stay in Moscow and trip to Weimar and Italy, to his move to Paris, his creative activity on the River Seine and, ultimately, the poet’s last expedition—his diplomatic mission in Istanbul.

Fot. Hanna Zaworonko
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Adam Mickiewicz’s last-used pen

For centuries, a quill pen had been the most frequently used writers’ tool. In the 1840s, it was fitted with a metal nib which improved writing, reduced the tool’s wear and tear and the need to sharpen its tip which was dipped in ink. The object on display is Mickiewicz’s last pen which the poet had on him during his diplomatic mission to Istanbul in 1855. Following Mickiewicz’s sudden death, the pen returned to Paris along with its owner’s body, and is presently on display at the Polish Library in Paris. The object’s condition indicates that the poet used to sharpen the pen himself and did not use a nib.

The Adam Mickiewicz’s last-used pen, MAM 561/BPP/THL.
Fot. Hanna Zaworonko-Olejniczak
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Adam Mickiewicz’s blotting paper, fountain pen and inkwell

Apart from the pen, the blotting-paper and inkwell offer an insight into the poet’s daily creative work process. The traces of word clusters in ink on the blotting paper, as well as numerous blotting marks, show that Mickiewicz used it as a writing pad. In all likelihood, he used this type of blotting paper while working on Pan Tadeusz, which he had begun writing in Paris in 1833.

The Adam Mickiewicz’s last-used pen, MAM 561/BPP/THL.
Blotting paper in a sleeve made of cordovan leather, MAM 559/BPP/THL.
Pocket inkwell with stand, MAM 670/BPP/THL.
Fot. Hanna Zaworonko-Olejniczak
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Adam Mickiewicz’s satchel and visiting card

In the 19th century, leather accessories such as briefcases, bags, suitcases, trunks or satchels often bore the names of their owners. Inscription on the flap closing the satchel visible on display, made-to-order in St. Petersburg for a member of the Mickiewicz family, reads “Mackiewicz”, which is clearly a typo. The 19th-century flowering of graphic arts, especially lithography, contributed to the development of an industry of personalized souvenirs, visiting cards and postcards. A copper plate—template of Adam’s visiting card—serves as an example of such items in the Mickiewicz family memorabilia.

Satchel with the inscription "Mackiewitch", MAM 560/BPP/THL.
Copper plate used to print the "Adam Mickiewicz" visiting card, MAM 564 /BPP/THL.
Fot. Hanna Zaworonko-Olejniczak
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Adam Mickiewicz’s razors

Razors also can be found among the preserved daily-use objects which were once owned by “the bard of the Polish nation.” The poet probably paid a lot of attention to his appearance. Among numerous descriptions of his face, we find the following: “At the age of 55, Mickiewicz had a healthy face, still young and blooming, with white sideburns running around it and white centre-parted hair falling onto his shoulders.”* Therefore, the razors might have been used to care for the famed lush sideburns which were a characteristic feature of the poet’s physiognomy, easily discernible in almost all of his painted images.

*Wiktor Baworski, Odwiedziny u Mickiewicza, „Nowiny 41”, 1856, pp. 326-327; Władysław Bełza, Kronika potoczna i anegdotyczna z życia Adama Mickiewicza (Warszawa, 1998), pp. 197-198.
A pair of Adam Mickiewicz's razors, MAM 592/BPP/THL.
Fot. Hanna Zaworonko-Olejniczak
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Leaves from the “Mickiewicz Alley” in Tuhanowicze

Mickiewicz’s first love was Maria Wereszczakówna. The couple met in Tuhanowicze, at the estate of Maria’s parents, in the summer of 1818. Alas, the girl had already been promised to Count Puttkamer, and Mickiewicz was not wealthy enough to ask for her hand. The story of their doomed relationship inspired Mickiewicz to write Ballads and Romances. Leaves framed in glass and gilded frame were kept by Mickiewicz as a memento of the unfulfilled love. They were collected along an alleyway in Tuhanowicze, later named “Mickiewicz Alley” – the lovers’ meeting place from which they would set off for walks to the Świteź lake. Maria’s descendants erected a bust of the poet in the alleyway, whose fate reflects the nature of the unhappy love affair. Three months after it had been erected, Mickiewicz’s bust was struck by lightning and smashed into pieces.

Leaves from the "Mickiewicz Alley" in Tuhanowicze, MAM 577/BPP/THL.
Fot. Hanna Zaworonko-Olejniczak
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A rosary by Maryla Wereszczakówna

During their romantic walks, Mickiewicz and Wereszczakówna used to exchange gifts. One of the surviving presents from Maria is a rosary she made herself from seeds, herbs and flowers she had collected and dried earlier. Many years after their separation, the poet gave Maria a similar gift. In response to the last letter from Wereszczakówna which Mickiewicz received during his stay in Rome, he attached a rosary he had bought in the Vatican to his letter.

The rosary, hand-made by Maryla Wereszczakówna, gift to Adam Mickiewicz MAM 576/BPP/THL.
Fot. Hanna Zaworonko-Olejniczak
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Karolina Jaenisch’s hair

In 1824 Mickiewicz left Vilna forever. He went to Moscow where he attended social salon gatherings. It was there that he made friends with Karol Jaenisch, professor of chemistry and physics. Soon afterwards, Adam starts giving Polish language tutorial to Karol’s daughter, Karolina. The young woman, ten years younger than the poet, had received excellent education, spoke several languages and was an art lover. Mickiewicz was smitten with Karolina, who liked him back and, as a token of her affection, sent him a locket containing a lock of her hair tied with a pink silk ribbon.

The locket with a lock of Karolina Jaenisch's hair tied with a pink ribbon, MAM 580/BPP/THL.
Fot. Hanna Zaworonko-Olejniczak
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The rings of Adam Mickiewicz and Karolina Jaenisch

The initially fleeting feeling turned into marriage plans for Adam Mickiewicz and Karolina Jaenisch, which ultimately were never realised. Instead of the nuptials, the poet most likely offered Jaenisch a platonic friendship which aimed to lead to spiritual development. The souvenirs of their relationship, which—regardless of all—was marked by mutual respect, are the two golden rings that Karolina and Adam had given to each other. The ring from Mickiewicz boasts a stone with a simplified bas-relief portrait of the poet; the one Jaenisch gave Mickiewicz was made with black enamel highlighting the artistically cut Gothic-style initial “M” standing for the poet’s surname.

Golden ring with the image of Mickiewicz, MAM 578/BPP/THL.
Golden ring with black enamel and Mickiewicz's initials "M", MAM 579/BPP/THL.
Fot. Hanna Zaworonko-Olejniczak
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Stefan Garczyński’s leaves

Poet Stefan Garczyński was a close friend of Mickiewicz. They met in Berlin in 1829. Garczyński played an important role in Adam’s life. His heroic act of defending redoubt no. 54 during the November Uprising inspired Mickiewicz to write the poem titled “Ordon’s Redoubt.” It was also thanks to Garczyński that Adam met history philosopher Eduard Gans who gave him the idea of writing Pan Tadeusz. Mickiewicz took care of Garczyński until the end of his short life, and after his friend’s death in Avignon, he organized the burial. The leaf from Garczyński’s tomb symbolises the long-standing friendship between the two men. It also befitted the 19th-century sentimental tradition of preserving the memory of the dead.

Leaf from Stefan Garczyński's tomb, MAM 584 /BPP/THL.
Fot. Hanna Zaworonko-Olejniczak
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Napoleon’s hair

The exhibited lock of hair used to belong to Napoleon Bonaparte, a historical figure Adam Mickiewicz admired the most. The poet’s biographers point to the fact that young Adam was very impressed by Napoleon: “the passage of brilliant Napoleon’s troops; the emergence of the young King of Westphalia in all his glory of power and success, and then the return of those army remains—broken, hungry, wretched, plundering the deserted houses—all these left a permanent mark on the child’s mind.”* According to the note attached to the locket, the lock of hair was taken posthumously from the Emperor’s temple on the island of Sainte Hélène on 5 May 1821. Mickiewicz could have bought this souvenir upon his arrival in Paris.

*Maria Gorecka, Wspomnienia o Adamie Mickiewiczu, opowiedziane najmłodszemu bratu (Warszawa, 1875); Władysław Bełza, Kronika potoczna i anegdotyczna z życia Adama Mickiewicza (Warszawa, 1998), p. 27.
The locket with a lock of hair of Napoleon Bonaparte, MAM 581/BPP/THL.
Fot. Hanna Zaworonko-Olejniczak
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Stamp featuring Goethe

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, a German poet, was an equally important figure for Mickiewicz. The two men were friends—they used to correspond and occasionally meet. They met for the first time in 1829 in Weimar, the home of the author of Faust. According to various accounts, Goethe was a great admirer of Mickiewicz, too. One day, he asked the Polish bard to sit for a portrait with a local painter and to then leave the portrait in Weimar as a souvenir. The steel stamp with the image of Goethe was a gift to Mickiewicz from Julian Ursyn Niemcewicz, a poet and yet another friend. Julian was the godfather of Adam’s eldest daughter, Maria.

Steel stamp with a miniature silhouette of Goethe, MAM 585/BPP/THL.
Fot. Hanna Zaworonko-Olejniczak
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Mosaic from St Mark’s Basilica in Venice

In the 19th century, the so-called Grand Tour, a journey aimed at acquiring knowledge about the culture and civilisation of a given region, most often Italy, became widespread. Mickiewicz went there from Weimar, just like his friend Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Together with Antoni Odyniec, Adam visited Venice, Florence and Rome. The three golden cubes are fragments of the famous mosaic decoration of St Mark’s Basilica in Venice. Imagine Adam scratching the cubes from the wall of the temple and keeping them as a precious souvenir, almost like the relics of saints, until today.

Fragments of mosaic cubes from St Mark's Basilica in Venice, MAM588/BPP/THL.
Fot. Hanna Zaworonko-Olejniczak
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Wedding rings of Mr and Ms Mickiewicz

“On Tuesday, 22 July 1834, at 10 o’clock in the morning, Adam Mickiewicz and Celina Szymanowska were married.” One month after the wedding, the poet reported to his brother Franciszek on his marriage: “Celina is the wife I have always been looking for, open to adventures, modest, always cheerful.”* A simple form of the two wedding rings reflects the intimate nature of the event.  On their inner face, there are engraved inscriptions commemorating the day of the ceremony, preceded by the initials C. S. [Celina Szymanowska] and A. M. [Adam Mickiewicz].

*Władysław Bełza, Kronika potoczna i anegdotyczna z życia Adama Mickiewicza (Warszawa, 1998), p. 142.
The ring of Adam Mickiewicz, MAM 555/BPP/THL.
The ring of Celina Mickiewicz, MAM 556/BPP/THL.
Fot. Hanna Zaworonko-Olejniczak
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Pince-nez of Celina Mickiewicz

In the 19th century, pince-nez was the most frequently purchased accessory by women, along with binoculars, pocket watches and decorative buttons. The presented pair of women’s pince-nez belonged to Adam Mickiewicz’s wife, Celina. This is evidenced by an inscription with the initials “C.S” [Celina Szymanowska] on the gilded, embossed and chiselled brass handle, decorated with a rocaille motif. The practical character of the object, which was used every day for reading, is enhanced by a circle attached to the handle—it served as a hook for the missing gold chain that allowed the pince-nez to be worn around the neck.

Pince-nez with the initials "C.S."(Celina Mickiewicz), MAM 575/BPP/THL.
Fot. Hanna Zaworonko-Olejniczak
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Helena Szymanowska’s case for playing cards

The Mickiewicz family memorabilia collection also includes the belongings of further-removed family members. The case presented in the exhibition, covered with European lacquer decoration, was an engagement gift from Franciszek Malewski (Adam Mickiewicz’s friend from the university in Vilna) to Helena Szymanowska, Celina Mickiewicz’s sister. The object was used to store playing cards, as indicated by their representation in a decorative cartouche on the lid. Applying decorations imitating Japanese lacquerware on trunks, pouncet boxes or furniture was a speciality of English craftsmen and was popular among the 1840s European bourgeoisie.

The case offered by Franciszek Malewski to Helena Szymanowska on her engagement, MAM 675 /BPP/THL.
Fot. Hanna Zaworonko-Olejniczak
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Little hearts of the Malewski family

Engagements, weddings and baptisms, as well as anniversaries of such events were occasions when people exchanged souvenirs. These heart-shaped medallions were manufactured for the 25th wedding anniversary of Helena and Franciszek Malewski. The names and birthdays of their many children were engraved on them.

Golden hearts for the 25th wedding anniversary of Helena Szymanowska and Franciszek Malewski, MAM 640 /BPP/THL.
Fot. Hanna Zaworonko-Olejniczak
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Helena Malewska’s ring containing hair

We do not know the origin of this ring. However, we do know that it was commissioned by Helena Malewska, née Szymanowska, sister of Celina Mickiewicz. The intimate character of this object is emphasized not only by the owner’s name, “Helena,” engraved on the ring gem, but also a strand of hair which certainly belonged to Malewska, placed in a recess along the ring perimeter.

The golden ring decorated with hair and an inscription: "Helena” belongs to Romuald Szymanowski's brother, MAM 649/BPP/THL.
Fot. Hanna Zaworonko-Olejniczak
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Helena Malewska’s earrings with cameo

The style of jewellery worn by women close to Adam Mickiewicz was in line with trends of the Biedermeier era, namely the period between the 1818 Congress of Vienna and the outbreak of the 1848 Revolution. A pair of earrings with replicas of ancient cameo which belonged to Helena Malewska (Celina Mickiewicz’s sister), confirms this propensity. Their richness adapted to the prevailing trends promoting décolleté dresses exposing neck and shoulders as well as high hair updos, allowing room for splendid ear decorations. The frames of the earrings, in keeping with the jewellery practices of the time, were made of hollow gold, whereas the cameo—carved in blue stone—was adorned with mask motifs.

Pair of earrings with cameo replicas belonging to Helena Malewska, MAM 618/BPP/THL.
Fot. Hanna Zaworonko-Olejniczak
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Seal made of topaz of the Malewski family

The seals were also manufactured in a very sophisticated way. They were cut in gemstones and featured family names and their heraldic equivalents. An example of such is the exhibited topaz seal-fob with a golden handle. Its three faces feature the following engravings: the coat of arms of the “Jastrzębiec” family, the surname “Malewski” and inscription in Mandarin Chinese. The stamp most likely belonged either to Franciszek Malewski, a friend of Mickiewicz from the time when he had studied in Lithuania, or his father Szymon, the rector of the University of Vilna.

Topaz seal-fob with three faces that belonged to either Franciszek or Szymon Malewski, MAM 637/BPP/THL.
Fot. Hanna Zaworonko-Olejniczak
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Maria Szymanowska’s pointe shoes

A very important and valuable part of the Mickiewicz family collection used to belong to Adam’s mother-in-law, Maria Szymanowska. She was one of the first professional female pianists in European history. Born into a noble family, she received an excellent education and could develop her musical interests. The pair of satin shoes on display here comes from her youth. As a nine-year-old, Maria took piano and dance lessons. The shoes were bought in Paris which is shown on the label with the shoemaker and boutique names inside the right shoe.

A pair of Maria Szymanowska's satin shoes, MAM 612/BPP/THL.
Fot. Hanna Zaworonko-Olejniczak
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Maria Szymanowska’s dance card

The 19th century ballroom life was characterised by a great deal of formalism, also with regard to dancing. Dance cards were used to keep order during a ball; they were either purchased or given to the women by the Master of Ceremony. A gentleman who wanted to ask a woman to dance with him wrote his name with pencil in it. The dance card of Maria Szymanowska is a testimony to this old rule of savoir-vivre. Its binding is made of cut-out openwork silver. The pages have gilded edges. There is also a miniature pencil with a silver handle connected with a chain to the notebook.

Dance card of Maria Szymanowska, MAM 608/BPP/THL.
Fot. Hanna Zaworonko-Olejniczak
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Maria Szymanowska’s bracelet with sapphire

The jewellery of Maria Szymanowska, a renowned pianist, Celina Mickiewicz’s mother, is an important piece of the Mickiewicz family collection. The bracelet in the photo, decorated with precious stones—sapphire and pearls—was in all likelihood presented to the pianist by King William I of the Netherlands after one of her concerts in Paris (1824), Vienna or Saint Petersburg. In line with the 19th-century practices of the European aristocracy, donating expensive jewellery was a way to express admiration for the talent of writers, poets or pianists.

Bracelet with sapphires and pearls on a gold chain owned by Maria Szymanowska, MAM 599/BPP/THL.
Fot. Hanna Zaworonko-Olejniczak
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Maria Szymanowska’s thimble

This exquisitely crafted item is Maria Szymanowska’s thimble. The object reflects the model of education that Maria received in her youth. In the 19th century, every young woman from the upper classes was able to sew, embroider and knit. Cast in gold, decorated with floral motifs and covered with a layer of two-tone blue enamel, the thimble alludes to the Empire style. One can see typically-fashioned rosettes and simplified laurel tree twigs on it. The copper outer face and the gold-plated lid closing the thimble are engraved with Maria Szymanowska’s initials.

Maria Szymanowska's golden thimble, MAM 605/BPP/THL.
Fot. Hanna Zaworonko-Olejniczak
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Maria Szymanowska’s brooch

In the 19th century, jewellery was not only a symbol of social status, but also a permanent element of a young woman’s outfit. Maria Szymanowska’s brooch was most likely a piece of a set which also included a necklace and earringsthe so-called demi-parure. The jewellery was worn during an outing to the opera, theatre or a ball. Interestingly, the item features a variety of jewellery techniques. Apart from polished stones, such as turquoise (the edges of the ribbon hem), multi-colour enamel (fillings forming floral motifs), mosaics and granulation (small balls formed of gold; both techniques used on a bow knot) were used.

Maria Szymanowska’s brooch, MAM 604, BPP/THL.
Fot. Hanna Zaworonko-Olejniczak
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Katarzyna Malewska’ pin with garnets

Walks or outings to the theatre or opera offered an opportunity to show off pieces of jewellery; nowadays less frequently used for such occasions. The pin presented here used to adorn a hat or a neckline of a dress. It is made of gold and decorated with the granulation technique (gold modelled into tiny balls), cannetille (a technique developed in the 19th century which was a variety of filigree, made of thin wire or firmly taped narrow strips, suitably rolled or twisted, formed into volutes or rosettes) and polished stones, i.e. turquoise, topaz or amethyst.

Golden pin of Katarzyna Malewska, wife of the rector of the University of Vilna, MAM 641/BPP/THL.
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Zofia Brochocka’s bracelet with hair

Hair strands not only adorned ring gems, brooches or necklaces but could also serve as a material for jewellery production. The bracelet presented here belonged to Zofia Brochocka, sister of Franciszek Malewski, a close friend of Adam Mickiewicz. Zofia was regarded as a muse of the Philomath Society of which Adam was a member. The bracelet is made of braided hair, with a finely chiselled gold-plated clasp shaped as a rattlesnake eating its own tail. The jewellery is of a sentimental character and the rattlesnake refers to ancient mythology, the ouroboros motifs, whose continuing destruction and rebirth symbolises infinity.

Golden bracelet made of braided hair owned by Zofia Brochocka, MAM 643/BPP/THL.
Fot. Hanna Zaworonko-Olejniczak
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Zofia Brochocka’s bracelet with heart

Zofia Brochocka also owned the bracelet presented here, consisting of alternating gold beads and semi-precious stones (agate, labradorite, malachite). The romantic character of the jewellery is emphasized by the fobs attached to the chain with beads: polished jade formed as an anchor entwined with a gold snake, entangled carnelian beads shaped as a cross and a lapis-lazuli heart. The symbolic meaning of the objects referred to the three virtues of Christian faith: faith, hope and love.


Golden bracelet with semi-precious stones and fobs: anchor, cross and heart, MAM 642/BPP/THL.
Fot. Hanna Zaworonko-Olejniczak
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Adam Mickiewicz’s ring with lyre

Gifts that Adam Mickiewicz received from his compatriots in Paris were of sentimental kind, as well. On 8 August 1832, Polish immigrants living in Besançon presented Mickiewicz with a commemorative ring featuring a lyre for having written The Books and the Pilgrimage of the Polish Nation and enclosed a petition: “You know how on the altar of the Fatherland rising from the grave, our unrivaled Polish women gave their dearest souvenirs of the living or the dead; how their husbands’ and lovers’ rings took forms of coins to pay war costs for the Fatherland, for the misappropriated freedom of Poland; one of these coins, carefully guarded until now, returns to its original shape to honour you, our compatriot.”

A golden ring with the motif of a lyre crowned with a laurel wreath, MAM 554/BPP/THL.
Fot. Hanna Zaworonko-Olejniczak
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Adam Mickiewicz’s pilgrim’s stick

The history of this item—a pilgrim’s stick, or a cane—is a testament to the mystical period in Adam Mickiewicz’s life. In the early 1840s, Adam was friends with theosophist Andrzej Towiański, which led to the poet’s spiritual rebirth. At that time, the poet organised numerous meetings at his home during which he offered prophecies on the future of Poland. The walking stick he held in his hands probably complemented the mysterious aura surrounding the figure of a pilgrim-bard, a “soul doctor” who united the nation with words. Antoine Bourdelle used the motif of a walking stick in his project for the Mickiewicz monument unveiled in Paris in 1929.

Walking stick of Adam Mickiewicz, MAM 671/2004/BPP/THL.
Fot. Hanna Zaworonko-Olejniczak
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Medal with a triple portrait

Mickiewicz was invited to give lectures at the Collège de France, the famous university in Paris. This was not only in recognition of the poet’s work, but also signified a clear intention to entrust the Pole with a mission to develop research on Slavic literature. The presented medal with images of his left profile was issued in honour of the three professors who held chairs at the Collège de France between 1844 and 1845. Edgar Quinet’s portrait is in the foreground, followed by the image of Jules Michelet. Adam Mickiewicz’s portrait in the background.

Medal in honour of the three professors at the Collège de France: Adam Mickiewicz, Jules Michelet and Edgar Quinet, cast in bronze, 1845, BPP/THL.
Fot. Hanna Zaworonko-Olejniczak
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Blue engagement rings of Władysław Mickiewicz and Maria Malewska

The second pair of rings in the Mickiewicz family memorabilia collection used to belong to the bard’s son, Władysław and his wife Maria, née Malewska. Just like Adam and Celina’s rings, these also have inscriptions on the inside face, commemorating the time and place of the engagement, i.e. 8 June, Kobryń—24 June St. Petersburg 1861. The extremely sophisticated decoration is truly impressive. On the inner face of the golden rings, a layer of light blue jewellery enamel was applied.

A pair of engagement rings of Władysław and Maria Mickiewicz, 1861, MAM 661 and MAM 662/BPP/THL.
Fot. Hanna Zaworonko-Olejniczak
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Wedding flowers of Maria Malewska

Another item that follows the sentimental trend of the Romantic era are the flowers from the wedding wreath of his wife Maria Mickiewicz, which were preserved by Władysław Mickiewicz. The wedding took place on 23 May 1863. We can assume that Władysław inherited a predilection for preserving vestiges of the important moments in the past from his father. This object may bring to mind the leaves from the “Mickiewicz Alley” in Tuhanowicze—a memento of Adam’s first love, Maryla Wereszczakówna.

Flowers from the wedding wreath of Maria Mickiewicz née Malewska, 23 May 1863, MAM 679/BPP/THL.
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Władysław Mickiewicz behind the desk

The presented photograph, albeit not part of the Mickiewicz family memorabilia, is important for this collection. It shows Władysław Mickiewicz, Adam’s eldest son, who established the Mickiewicz Museum at the Polish Library in Paris in 1903 and donated the collection of family memorabilia to the museum.

Władysław Mickiewicz, Head of the Historical and Literary Society, Paris, at his office. Fot.Mick.115/BPP/THL.
Fot. Hanna Zaworonko-Olejniczak
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Coffin of Adam Mickiewicz

Adam Mickiewicz died suddenly during a diplomatic mission in Istanbul on November 26, 1855. Metal handles, fragments of metal sheet and wood are the remains of the coffins Mickiewicz was buried in. On November 27, the bard’s body was embalmed and placed in three coffins made of, respectively, oak, tin and walnut due to fears that the poet might have died of cholera. A photograph of his wife, a lock of hair of his youngest son Józio, and a crucifix were put in the coffin; the poet’s face was covered with a shroud. At the family request, the writer’s corpse was brought to Paris the same year.

The remains of Adam Mickiewicz's coffin, MAM 595/BPP/THL.
Fot. Hanna Zaworonko-Olejniczak
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Shroud and herbs from Adam Mickiewicz’s coffin

Among the items that have been preserved from Mickiewicz’s funeral ceremony in Istanbul are also those closest to the body of the deceased: a piece of cotton cloth and dried conifer twigs. Both objects are a testament to the Middle Eastern burial ceremony. The body was embalmed first—hence the considerable amount of herbs—and then wrapped in a cotton shroud. These objects were placed in ornamental frames, akin to the relics of saints. Thus, the genius poet and writer was raised to the altars.

Fragment of the shroud from Adam Mickiewicz's coffin, MAM 596/BPP/THL.
Herbs from Adam Mickiewicz's coffin, MAM 597/BPP/THL.
Fot. Hanna Zaworonko-Olejniczak
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Adam Mickiewicz’s hair

Placing hair in glass lockets was common in the 19th century. Most often, lockets were finished with a gold rim and their function was not just that of a souvenir. They were also an expression of sympathy and love. The locket on display contains a lock of Adam Mickiewicz’s hair which was collected after he had passed away in Istanbul.

The locket with a lock of Adam Mickiewicz's hair, MAM 693/BPP/THL.
Fot. Hanna Zaworonko-Olejniczak
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Adam Mickiewicz’s death mask

The death mask expresses both the intention to preserve the memory of the deceased and the desire to reproduce and publish his image. Very often renowned artists were taking such casts, as evidenced by the death mask of Fryderyk Chopin, made by Auguste Clésinger. This one, made in memory of Mickiewicz, served as a model for the bard’s image on his tombstone at the cemetery in Montmorency, the place where the poet had wished to be buried next to his wife, Celina.

Adam Mickiewicz’s death mask, 1855, MAM 47/BPP/THL.
Fot. Hanna Zaworonko-Olejniczak
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Medal by Antoine Bourdelle

Medals and coins testify to a posthumous cult of an artist. The medal presented here by the famous late 19th-century sculptor Antoine Bourdelle is one of the numerous examples of artistic realisation of Mickiewicz’s image. Not only did the artist make the medal, but he is also the project author and executor of the monumental statue representing the poet’s entire figure. Bourdelle’s monument used to stand at Alma Square; currently it is located at Cour Albert I.

Antoine Bourdelle, Medal in honour of Adam Mickiewicz /BPP/THL.
Fot. Hanna Zaworonko-Olejniczak
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Matchbox with the image of Adam Mickiewicz

Adam Mickiewicz became an icon of Polish culture and his image was used by manufacturers of everyday objects, such as matches. Mickiewicz’s image was printed on this matchbox for purely advertising purposes, for the poet was known for being keen on smoking a pipe.

Matchbox with the image of Adam Mickiewicz, OZ 232/BPP/THL.
Fot. Hanna Zaworonko-Olejniczak
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“I love the whole nation” poster by Ryszard Horovitz

The onset of industrial revolution and the turn of the 20th century herald a new form of graphic expression—a poster. The novel artwork by Horovitz is the first known use of the poet’s image in this way. The slogan “I love the entire nation” was intended to “raise the national spirit.” The poster was designed in 1904 in Lvov, before Poland regained its independence. While working on Mickiewicz’s image, the artist was inspired by a well-known photograph of the poet’s face, a daguerreotype from 1842.

Ryszard Horovitz, Poster of Mickiewicz: "I love the whole nation" THL.BPP.OP.232/4/BPP/THL.


Authors: Agnieszka Wiatrzyk, Klara Jackl
Coordination: Klara Jackl
Photographs: Hanna Zaworonko-Olejniczak
Consultation: Anna Czarnocka, Ewa Rutkowski
Translation: Zofia Sochańska, Agnieszka Wiatrzyk, Marie-Aude Chevallier
Produced by: Artkolektyw


Project financed by the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage from the Cultural Promotion Fund, obtained from subsidies established in games covered by the State monopoly, according to art. 80 paragraph 1 of the Act of 19 November 2009 on gambling games.