The great Upper-Silesian families: Ballstrem, Donnersmarck, Thiele-Winkler and Renard

Published on: 14 / 11 / 2010

Among the noblest Upper-Silesian residences was the palace of count Guido Henkel von Donnersmarck in Świerklaniec (Neudeck in German, an archival photo nearby), designed by a notable French architect Hector Laufel. The descriptions in the press of the pre-war period provide information about the Red Saloon, where the works by Murillo, Cranach, Eugène Carrier and a portrait of Lessing by Anton Graff could be admired. In the same saloon were also canvas paintings depicting hunting scenes and the cabinet had been destined to the ancestors’ gallery (the Donersmarcks had been portrayed by a notable painter Franz von Lenbach). The edifice, frequently named “Small Versailles” was broken down in the 1960s; however it’s worth taking a walk through the park by the former palace (free access). Four basins have remained, adorned with cast iron sculptures that depict fighting animals, designed by a notable French artist Emmanuel Fremiet. A fountain next to them has its pattern in the Jardin du Luxembourg in Paris. The park was formerly also adorned with lion statues by the workshop of Theodor Kalide from Gleiwitz (Gliwice). The remaining fragment of the former park site, as well as the not particularly large “Chevalier’s Chateau” provide imagination on splendour of the former Donnersmarcks’ residence.

The next object en route is a very well preserved palace, erected by the end of the 19th century in Pławniowice (Plawniowitz), having formerly belonged to the noble Silesian family Ballestrem (information on its sightseeing are available on the website The new residence was visited in 1905, according to Franz von Ballestrem’s invitation, by a famous Berliner sculptor Josef Limburg, who executed numerous works commissioned by the family (mainly the statue of Giovanni Battista Ballestro di Castellengo – founder of the Silesian line of the family, as well as effigies of other family members). Limburg was also creator of oil paintings and watercolours exposed in Pławniowice.


he interiors were adorned by numerous paintings, among them portraits of the family representatives and canvases by notable artists, like Anton Möller (“A boy with a goldfinch” from 1586 – a photo nearby), Carl Boromäus Ruthart and Jan van Huysum. The paintings and arts and crafts’ works from Pławniowice are currently exposed in the Museum of Gliwice (information on opening hours available on

In the nearby lying Strzelce Opolskie (Groß Strehlitz) have remained the ruins of the 16th century castle, which belonged from the early 19th century to the counts von Renard. The pride of the picture gallery is a painting by Guercino, depicting “Venus, Mars and Amor” (a photo nearby), surely conveyed to the castle by enterprise of Gustav Colonna, who owned the residence in the 17th century). It is known, what did the castle’s furnishing consist of, mainly owing to the register, included by Hans Lutsch in his monumental issue “Verzeichnis der Kunstdenkmäler der Provinz Schlesien”, edited by the end of the 19th century.

There were precious pieces of furniture (e.g. an inlaid cupboard from 1578, with North-German motifs) as well as numerous arts and crafts’ objects (glass, porcelain, silver, ivory pieces) and effigies of the family members. Lutsch also mentions genre scenes painted by Dutch masters.

Among the most interesting Upper-Silesian residences is undoubtedly worth mentioning the palace in Moszna, erected by the counts Tiele-Winkler (available to sightsee, information on the website The interiors of this sumptuous residence were decorated with splendour. The owners acquired mainly the series of paintings with mythological scenes by Gherardo Gaetano Zompini, who had previously decorated the Venetian patricians’ palace. The large series of large-scale tapestries depicting the biblical History of Jacob executed on the base of Bernard van Orley's etchings had formerly been owned by a noble Bolognese family Malvezzi-Campeggi, whose palace it had adorned. There wasn’t enough room for the cycle in one hall of the Moszna castle. Some tapestries had been hung in the spacious entry hall, greeting the arriving guests, the remaining ones had adorned other rooms, among them the residential “Lord’s Room”. In the palace also the portrait gallery couldn't lack, emphasizing the family splendour.

Project co-financed by Ministry of Labour and Social Policy under Government Project – Civic Benefit Fund.
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