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Polish art treasures in Canada 1940-1961 Home | Programme | Log-in
New research in 2004 by Icons of Europe
THE SOJOURN OF POLISH ART TREASURES
IN CANADA FROM 1940 TO 1961

The oceanliner M/S Stockholm.A collection of original Chopin manuscripts, including Concerto in F-minor and Mazurka in A flat - performed at Toronto on the occasion of World TB Day 2005 - and other priceless Polish art treasures were in safekeeping in Canada during World War II.  Major issues of international ramification delayed their return to Poland till 1959/1961.

Kept in the vaults of the Bank of Montreal, Chopin's manuscripts, the Gutenberg Bible and the ancient Polish coronation sword departed via New York aboard M/S Stockholm in January 1959.

The sojourn is documented in an essay researched and written by Icons of Europe in 2004 for the 2004/2005 issue of Chopin in the World, the annual journal of the International Federation of Chopin Societies, Warsaw.

>> THE ESSAY:  Transcription
(with sources)
>> THE ESSAY:  Original version
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COPYRIGHT
The media and not-for-profit institutions may quote extracts of this essay.  The source credit should be accompanied by the text:  "Copyright 2005 Icons of Europe, B-1380 Brussels, www.iconsofeurope.com".

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New sources of information
Secret Canadian government files

The sojourn has been on record for some time.  However, Icons of Europe's research in 2004 sheds new light on this extraordinary episode.  Among the new sources of information are recently declassified secret Canadian government files that document the involvement of the communist government of Poland, the United Nations, the Vatican and other organizations. 

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Other sources include Icons of Europe's research findings in 2003-2004 on Chopin and Jenny Lind's secret relationship.


Highlights of the essay
"The original autograph of Mazurka op. 24, n 3 took an unexpected route over the next 100+ years - which eventually brought it back from Canada to Poland in 1959 aboard the Swedish liner M/S Stockholm." - - -

The Bank of Montreal had for about 19 years including World War II held a collection of original Chopin manuscripts, a two-volume Johann Gutenberg Bible, Szczerbiec (the bejewelled sword used since 1320 for the crowning of Polish kings), and other particularly important Polish art treasures - locked in two trunks for safekeeping in its vaults at Sparks Street, Ottawa.

Given Jenny Lind's performance for Queen Victoria in 1855 and 1856, it is no small coincidence that the two trunks were released from the Bank of Montreal under an Agreement drafted in 1956 "on behalf of Her Majesty the Queen in right of Canada" (secret document no. 171-56:  Memorandum from Secretary of State for External Affairs to Cabinet, Ottawa, August 1st, 1956).


 

Toronto 2005
Another article

Queen Victoria (1819-1901).  -  Jenny Lind sang an arrangement of Mazurka op. 24, n 3 for the Queen at Windsor Castle on 28 December 1855 and at Buckingham Palace on 30 May 1856.

This image from the Gutenberg Bible is of the text of Book I of the Maccabees, which begins, "After Alexander son of Philip, the Macedonian, who came from the land of Kittim, had defeated King Darius of the Persians and the Medes, he succeeded him as king" (Houghton Mifflin, Boston, Ma.).  The Bible was the first real book to be printed using the technique of printing which Gutenberg invented in the 1450s.

Szczerbiec, the bejewelled sword used since 1320 in the coronation ceremony of Polish kings.  Photo by Janusz Podlecki for the Royal Wawel Castle, Krakow.

Cover of "CHOPIN and The Swedish Nightingale" (Brussels, 2003).


Chopin's Mazurka in A-flat is performed by Jenny Lind in act 6 of the musical drama Chopin and The Nightingale of which Icons of Europe is the playwright.