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Jan Białostocki and Michal Walicki remark with regret in their overview of the history of painting collecting in Poland from 1957 that the powerful late Jagellonians, who spent fortunes on palaces and jewelry and tapestries, showed no detectable interest in painting.
A different tone was struck in 1988, in the exhibition catalogue Europäische Malerei des Barock, which traveled to Braunschweig, Utrecht, Munich and Cologne.
That the succeeding dynasty of the Wasas did collect on a lavish scale is no cause for lasting joy in Poland.
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In her introduction, Janina Michalkowa reports that the 16th-century palace was adorned with paintings, mainly Italian paintings, which however were destroyed in the fires of 15.
Be that as it may, not a single painting can today be traced to that legendary house.
In the 16th and 17th centuries, the harbor city of Gdańsk employed Flemings and Dutchmen for the construction of their fortifications, city gates and public buildings.
In 1655 Swedish armies occupied Poland, dragging off, as Michalkowa puts it, anything that was draggable: furniture, sculptures, paintings, marble.
When the last Wasa abdicated in 1672, he took his collection with him to France, where 150 paintings were sold for a song and dispersed.