Until 1939, the library, now called ‘The Hendel Library’ was one of the most impressive interiors of the Rogalin residence, not only because of its impressive size (12m in length, 8.5 m width and 8m high), but also mainly because of its rich, neo-baroque furnishings. Its décor was created in the years 1893-1894 on the basis of a draft by Zygmunt Hendel, who was employed by Edward Aleksander Raczynski. It was the first such significant order for the yet unknown young architect from Cracow, a graduate of Architecture and the School of Fine Arts in Vienna.
Decorated with rich woodcarvings, the wooden interior of buildings was made of waxed oak with a golden hue. The cabinet doors on the upper floor were filled with a decorative mesh of brass wire and the bases were covered with glazing that was placed in gilded bronze frames with a rich plant decoration. A lightweight, forged balustrade with motifs of vases and floral festoons closed the small gallery on the first floor. The decoration was complemented by a fireplace in black marble, with a portrait of the founding father in a woodcarving setting and a 3.7 m high furnace. The Nałęcz arms of the Raczynski family and the Pilawa arms of the Potocki family were placed in the stucco ceiling decoration. The library was considered to be the joint effort of Edward Alexander Raczynski and his wife, Róża Potocka .
Work in the library was performed solely by Polish workshops, which was typical of the aristocracy’s patriotic way of thinking during the partitions. As Z. Hendel wrote in an article devoted to the implementation of the library, published in The Architect: "everything was created using Polish labour, and, so, the carpentry work was done by the J. Zeyland factory in Poznan, and the models of the sculptures, designed with real finesse in oak, were made by W. Wakulski in Cracow. The rich lattice of the gallery (35 mb) was made J. Gorecki in Krakow. Only the ceiling sculptures were made by an Italian, M. Biagini, in Poznan, because a decorative Polish sculptor with the skill necessary for modeling certain spaces could not be found.”
The library was located in the former ceremonial banquet hall on the first floor, near the historic Armoury from the beginning of the nineteenth century, which further emphasised its importance. Its decoration appealed stylistically to the early history of the palace and the ancestors of Edward Alexander. This is evidenced not only by the selection of the neo-baroque form of the building’s interiors, but also by a chimney from the early nineteenth century exposing the Baroque cradle from the times of Kazimierz Raczynski, left there in accordance with the explicit wishes of the founder, and furthermore by placing the initials of Roger Raczynski, father of the founder, and his grandfather Edward Raczynski.in the wood-carved decorations of the windows and doors.
A collection of luxurious and valuable publications about art was gathered in the library. Collecting art was the main focus of the creator of the Rogalin Gallery, and in days gone by it had one of the biggest and best collections of paintings in Poland, already adding up to eleven thousand items and still constantly growing in 1910.
This great interior has not survived today, as during the Second World War the palace was occupied. Then, the wooden interior of the library was dismantled and a suspended ceiling was put in place for many years which covered the beautiful stucco decorations. The collection of books, part of which was transported to the Raczynski Library in Poznan by its former curator, Józef Raczynski, from the Germanised branch of the family, in order to secure it, also does not survive as it was destroyed by fire during the bombing of the city.
Author: Joanna Nowak