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Monday, August 15, 2022

Kórnik. They are investigating the White Lady of the Castle

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The Kórnik Library wants to restore the portrait of the White Lady from the Kórnik Castle. For now, the painting is being examined by experts. It is estimated that its maintenance will cost over PLN 100,000.

Friday marked the 231st anniversary of the death of the heroine of the painting, Teofila Szołdrska Potulicka née Działyńska, i.e. the White Lady of Kórnik, the owner of the Castle in Kórnik, who lived in the years 1715-1790.

As prof. AMU dr hab. Magdalena Biniaś-Szkopek from the Kórnik Library of the Polish Academy of Sciences, portrayed, was called the White Lady due to the color of her dress in the famous painting. The work of an unknown author, dating from around 1754, is located in the dining room in the castle, where already in the mid-nineteenth century, in the times of Tytus Działyński – the founder of the Kórnik Library – portraits of the family’s ancestors were hung.

A unique session for a birthday

For her birthday, the White Lady received a special gift – in recent days, her portrait photos were taken with a portable X-ray machine and ultraviolet radiation.

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“We have ordered a professional photo session for her, which will allow us to see her interior” – the Kórnik Library of the Polish Academy of Sciences informed on social media.

All this precedes the planned conservation of the painting.

Seven years of fighting for money

Efforts to raise funds for the conservation of the painting began in 2014. – At that time, we did not receive any funding. We used the Kórnik Library’s own funds to pay for the preliminary expertise that was necessary to submit an application for funding. In 2014, the renovation of the painting with the frame was valued at over PLN 80,000 – says Katarzyna Woźniak, deputy director of the Kórnik Library of the Polish Academy of Sciences.


In the offer for conservation work at the time, the description of the painting included, among others, numerous cracks and abrasions in the paint layer, repainting resulting from previous conservation works, thick layers of varnish, which have darkened much, which may make some details invisible, and damage to the underpainting, partially masked with secondary putties during previous renovation works in the 1950s. deformations of the canvas, damages covered with putty, as well as abrasions and repainting on the frame were found.

However, maintenance has not yet taken place. – Efforts for funds are ongoing. Before undertaking comprehensive conservation measures, we decided to carry out a full expert opinion assessing the state of preservation of the painting – said Katarzyna Woźniak. The expertise is performed by experts from the University of Nicolaus Copernicus in Toruń. In recent days, the aforementioned x-rays and photos with the participation of ultraviolet radiation. Further specialized tests that will allow us to understand the composition under the layers of repainting are possible. The tests were initially ordered for February 2022.

It will be more expensive

– After obtaining the expertise, we will estimate the renovation costs according to modern price lists. Preliminary assessments indicate that it will be an amount in excess of PLN 100,000. It is also estimated that the portrait restoration process itself may take about six months, said the deputy director of the BK PAN. After obtaining the expertise and valuation of the works, the institution will seek money from the commune and poviat authorities and the Kórnickie Zakłady Foundation.

At night, she is supposed to walk around the castle in Kórnik

Teofila Szołdrska Potulicka née Działyńska, born in 1715, died on November 26, 1790. Currently, due to the image in the castle in Kórnik, she is associated with one of the most famous Polish ghosts. The White Lady is supposed to leave the painting at night, stroll through the castle chambers and in the park surrounding the castle. – The White Lady is still very popular. The guides tell a story about her – especially to numerous trips for children and young people. During cyclical events, including a night tour of the Castle or the Kórnik Science Days, one of the library’s employees likes to dress up as the White Lady – talks with tourists, plays scenes from Teofila’s life – said prof. Biniaś-Szkopek. Recently, a biographical book on Teofila née Działyński has been published, in which the librarians of Kórnik were involved in its creation. Next year, a virtual exhibition devoted to the 18th-century modernization of the Castle in Kórnik will be presented on the digital platform of the Kórnik Library.

Main photo source: Kórnik Library

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