This is the oldest funeral banner, one of around a dozen textiles of its type which have been preserved. At first, funeral banners were hung over the tombs of knights who had died in battle with the pagans, but soon they became part of the funeral ceremony. They became a kind of tombstone containing an image of the deceased and his epitaph. They were most commonly used in Prussia, whence we have the majority of examples, including a funeral banner for a three-year-old and the only preserved banner for a woman.
The banner was probably hung during or not long after the funeral of Stanisław Barzi (1530-1571) over his tomb next to the altar to St. Anthony he had funded in Kraków Cathedral on Wawel Hill.
Gifted to Princess Izabella Czartoryska in 1803, along with the Court Banner it was exhibited in the collections of the Temple of the Sibyl in Puławy. They were both looted by the Russians in 1848 and passed into the collections of the Hermitage in St. Petersburg.
The Funeral Banner returned to Poland in 1925, and from 1928 it was exhibited on the second floor of the Envoys’ Stairs and in the Treasury. In 1939 it was evacuated with the most priceless treasures – Sigismund II Augustus’ collection of arrases and the sword Szczerbiec – to Romania and later France, only to find final refuge in Quebec in Canada. It returned to Poland in 1961.
The dark brown trapezoidal banner is painted on one side. In the upper section it bears an inscription about Stanisław Barzi, whose image is visible on the lower section of the banner.
Stanisław Barzi was a royal courtier and secretary to Sigismund II Augustus, as well as the Castellan of Kraków. His kinship with the powerful Kmita and Tęczyński families enabled him to inherit one of the largest fortunes in the Commonwealth.
silk, tempera, gold
313 x 163 cm