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Narodowe Muzeum Morskie w Gdańsku

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The museum complex on the Motława river

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What does the model of "The Sacrifice of Abraham" conceal?

12.02.2016 |

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What does the model of "The Sacrifice of Abraham" conceal?

A scale model of a 17th century shipyard, the most valuable models of historic ships, original shipbuilding tools recovered from shipwrecks, 17th century paintings – these are some of the most important elements of a new permanent exhibition organized at the National Maritime Museum, displaying development of the European shipbuilding – from the 16th to 18th centuries.

"Poles on the Seas of the World" is a historical cross-sectional exhibition devoted to the maritime history of Poland and the Poles, from the Early Middle Ages till the present day. The exposition has recently been supplemented with an important section. A new part of the exhibition – evolution of the European shipbuilding – from the 16th to 18th centuries, presents the most important stages and elements of ship construction and all shipbuilding related circumstances.

A scale model of a 17th century shipyard, built in a 1:50 scale, is the central and dominant part of the exposition. The model can be viewed from all sides which enables tracking of all stages of construction of a galleon type ship. There are 150 figures of shipyard workers – shipwrights, rope-makers and shipbuilders – placed at different work stations on the board.

The most valuable and the oldest models of historic ships from museum collections, including a model of an 18th century frigate "Nayade" and a model of a three-mast galleon built in the beginning of the 18th century (most probably in 1719 – as the date found on the only preserved sail suggests) – "The Sacrifice of Abraham" – have been selected for the permanent exhibition. The latter model has a very interesting story presented in the stern of the ship. It is a miniature low relief depicting a biblical scene: Abraham preparing to make an offering of his son.

The exhibition is supplemented with valuable models which have recently been acquired for the Museum's collection, including a model of a hull of a French battleship "L’Artesien" and of an English frigate "Juno", as well as images of 18th century Baltic ships, such as a galiot, a fluit, as well as hoker and kat type ships. Other models from the History of Shipbuilding Department along with original shipbuilding tools recovered from shipwrecks are also presented at the exhibition. Exceptional paintings and plates with images of Gdańsk ships, discovered by archaeologists, complete the exposition.

The exposition informs about the significance of the moment when ship designing started to be conducted on paper and design related documentation started to be drawn up for the history of shipbuilding. A copy of the painting "The Shipbuilder and his Wife" by Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1669) constitutes an excellent completion of this section of the exposition.

A different part of the exhibition is dedicated to types of Mediterranean vessels. Its interesting element is also a copy of a votive painting from Saint Stanislaus Bishop and Martyr Church in Szczepanów (near Tarnów) which depicts a Turkish galley. There are few sources about sailing of Poles in the Mediterranean Sea in the period of the 16th to 18th centuries. Few Poles participated in the Battle of Lepanto (1577) as a part of the Holy League. In the 16th and 17th centuries Poles were taken as prisoners of war and slaves onboard Turkish, Berber and Algerian galleys. At times, ransomed or after a lucky escape, they came back to their towns and made votive offerings – paintings and models of ships – to show gratitude to the Providence for regaining their freedom.


Both the script and concept of the exhibition has been prepared by Jerzy Litwin, PhD, the Director of the National Maritime Museum. Marcin Matuszek is responsible for the artistic project of the exposition and its realization. Robert Domżał, PhD, is a commissioner of this part of the exhibition.


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