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Culture news
Polish Silver from the 17th Century to the First Half of the 19th Century in the Hermitage
10.21.2004 14:10

polish_silver 19 October 2004 - February 2005

The Blue Bedroom of the Winter Palace is the venue for an exhibition of more than 60 works of Polish silver dating principally from the 17th and 18th centuries and coming from the Hermitage collection. The period covered by the exhibition was a brilliant one for silversmiths in Poland.

The main centers of jewelry and silver manufacture in Poland during the 17th and 18th centuries were the cities of Gdansk and Wroclaw. Chased goblets by Jakob Schmidt I and Lukas Kadau date from the 1620ís to 1640ís. . The works by Christian Paulsen and Andrzej Mackenzen date from the middle of the 17th century. Works by different branches of the Rode family of jewelers, who were well known in Gdansk from the mid-15th century, are also interesting, particularly Peter II Rode and his sons Peter III and Johann II.

Aside from expensive presentation items, the silversmiths also produced utilitarian items for a broader clientele. Among these were tankards, dishes and vodka tumblers with biblical scenes. Examples of these are works by Andrzej Mackenzen, Nathaniel Presding II and Johann Rode II. A tankard by Peter Rode III shows The Sacrifice of Isaac and another by Andrzej Mackenzen has a relief of The Meeting of Joseph and His Brothers on it.

Silver objects by Christian Jaske, the Younger, Nathaniel Schlaubitz and Ernst Kadau II bear a different sort of composition. Here we see secular scenes with the depiction of ladies and courtiers set against a background of landscapes - what might be called "high society in a park".

The Conversation of Alexander of Macedon and Diogenes is featured on a large tankard by Peter III Rode.

Tankards and tumblers with inlaid coins and medals constitute a special category of silver objects. Cast medals with the portrait of a king were the most popular. The Hermitage has tumblers made in the 1680ís by Johann Gottfried Holem and Andreas Hajdt showing medals of Jan III and Mihal Koribut Wyszniewiecki. Between the portraits the silversmiths placed ornaments in relief: acanthus and fruits depicted in the Late Baroque manner.

Two works by Friedrich Schenau dating from the first decades of the 17th century are among the pieces by Wroclaw masters on display. One is a goblet with playing ivory made in accordance with Renaissance traditions, an item that was characteristic of German works of the 16th century.

A tankard by Augustin Heine has an unusual form. The elegant decoration is expressive in every detail and especially in the drawn and chased birds on the lip of the tankard.

Spoons made by Polish masters in the 17th and 18th centuries were widely known. The spoons often have moralizing phrases engraved on their handles.

In the second half of the 18th century and first half of the 19th century, Warsaw was the most important production center of silver objects. The exhibition features two candelabras which demonstrate the mastery of the cityís silversmiths.

The craft of silver and goldsmiths in Poland followed the general development of Western European traditions and styles. Most of the masters arrived from the major cities of Western Europe such as Nuremberg, Augsburg and Amsterdam. The brought with them new shapes and objects. But as they entered into the local milieu and took up the conditions of their new lives, local customs and traditions, these masters created new works that were different from those of their western brethren.

The collection of Polish silver was first assembled at the beginning of the 18th century. Of particular interest are the works of Gdansk silversmiths which were possibly acquired by Peter the Great himself and also by his comrade-in-arms Fieldmarshal Boris Petrovich Sheremetiev. Many valuable works entered the Hermitage collection after the October Revolution when the palaces and private museums of the princely family of Yusupovs, and Counts Stroganov, Shuvalov and Sheremetiev, among others, were all nationalized. In our own day the collection continues to grow thanks to purchases from private persons.

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