He reached the Łazienki park and found a calmer refuge here. Some stars were glittering in the sky, through the air from the Boulevard came the rustle of passers-by, and dampness rose from the lake. Sometimes a noisy cockchafer flew overhead, or a bat flitted silently by; a bird was mournfully chirping in the depths of the park, calling in vain to its mate; the distant splash of oars and the laughter of young women hung over the lake. (163)
In the 17th century, Prince Stanisław Lubomirski built a small bathhouse pavilion in Ujazdów. In the mid-18th century, the estate became the property of King Stanisław August Poniatowski, who retained the name “Łazienki” (bathhouse) and turned it into one of the most beautiful palace and garden complexes in Europe. The original pavilion was extended and turned into the classicist Palace on the Isle designed by Italian architect Domenico Merlini. Small and picturesquely located among the trees on the lake – in contrast with the monumental architecture of European palaces – it impresses with superb craftsmanship. The park, designed by Johann Christian Schuch, harmoniously merges the features of classicist French style with elements of the English landscape garden. It was decorated with numerous elegant pavilions. The Old Orangery with the Royal Theatre are near the entrance, the Water Tower and the White Pavilion were located slightly further. The fundamental shape of Łazienki, which dates back to King Stanisław August, has been maintained until today.
At the time that The Doll is set, the park was open to the public. Carriages would go down its main alleys, crowds attended organised entertainment; one could also take a horse ride or a boat trip on the pond, and skate in the winter. The most popular route (which was also taken by Wokulski) led from the bridge located centrally opposite the Palace, through the Amphitheatre, the Palace on the Isle, to the Old Guardhouse. A monument of King Jan Sobieski on horseback stood at the end of the alley. It was renovated in 1876, after being barbarously damaged. It was also in this part of the park that Wokulski was mugged.
In The Doll the Łazienki park becomes the setting for Wokulski’s frenzy of feelings: the great numbers of pathways where strollers pass one another make coincidental meetings likely and spark the hope of seeing Izabela. When he waits for her in the park, he falls into the mood of feverish anticipation. His night was full of wild dreams; he arrived too early in the park, sank onto the bench, and drenched in cold sweat, waited. Finally, two female figures appeared at the end of the path, one in black, the other in grey. The blood rushed to Wokulski’s head. […] He rose from the bench and went towards them like a madman, breathless. When she passes him, he utters a few awkward words. When she does not arrive, he is bitterly disappointed. Then, humiliated by Izabela, he returns to the park, haunted by his memories. The Łazienki landscape as beheld by Wokulski is as changeable as his impressions of Powiśle. The park is beautiful, bordering on kitsch, when it is enjoyed by a happy person. The eyes of a dejected observer focus on humidity, bats, and the mournful chirping of birds. Passers-by make him think of robbers and murderers, and the view of the pond evokes his death wish. The beauty of the park is perceived subjectively, and lies less in the reality and more in the eye of the beholder. The sight of Wokulski in pain makes Countess Karolowa reflect on the human fate: I am becoming increasingly convinced that money does not bring happiness, Bela. That Wokulski has made himself a fine career by his standards, but what good is it? He doesn’t work in his shop any more, but bores himself here in the Łazienki park.
The park in The Doll is represented as a garden in decline, the setting of social games, courtship, and degraded love.
- Słownik geograficzny Królestwa Polskiego i innych krajów słowiańskich, vol. 5, Warsaw 1884.
- M. Kwiatkowski, Łazienki, Warsaw 1972.
- E. Paczoska, Lalka czyli rozpad świata, 2nd ed., Warsaw 2008.