Curated by Maike Hohn and Konrad Pyzel
7 July to 1 November 2017
While in Vienna, we paid a visit to the wonderful Winterpalais to see an exhibition about the life and times of John Sobieski (1629-1696), warrior king.
John Sobieski became King of Poland in 1673 and a decade later formed an alliance with Emperor Leopold I against the Ottoman army then ravaging Europe. On 12 September 1683 he and his troops broke the siege of Vienna, beating back the Turks and so saving Christendom. His victory was celebrated in all Europe’s capitals and today, at Kahlenberg in the Vienna woods, there is a plaque commemorating his achievement. Kahlenberg, incidentally, offers by far the best aerial view of Vienna (you can see the Stephansdom in the distance) and if you go there the best place to eat afterwards is at Agnesbrundl (about a 10 minute walk away).
In the exhibition, there were portraits of John Sobieski at different stages of his life, together with portraits of his wife and children, and his contemporaries. We saw depictions of his various victorious battles (including Vienna) in the form of paintings, drawings and a slideshow of the pages of an artist’s sketchbook. Objects of plunder, for example an Ottoman cape, were on show. There was also a Hetman standard, probably the very one that he carried into battle. In the final room, there was a statue of John Sobieski by Pierre Vaneau (1683-87), intended for display in a French church: evidence of the Pole’s Europe-wide renown.
John III Sobieski: A Polish King in Vienna is a first-rate exhibition, colourful and informative and impeccably organised. It is at the Winterpalais in Vienna until 1 November 2017. Further details can be found here.