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The container for fragrant spices (e.g. clove, cinnamon, vanilla, myrtle), the aroma of which is ritually inhaled during the ceremony called Havdalah (in Hebrew: separation) is held in Jewish houses at the end of Shabbat. The base is in the form of a square frame. The stem has four rods fastened with four elliptic medallions.

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The container for fragrant spices (e.g. clove, cinnamon, vanilla, myrtle), the aroma of which is ritually inhaled during the ceremony called Havdalah (in Hebrew: separation) is held in Jewish houses at the end of Shabbat.
The base is in the form of a square frame. The stem has four rods fastened with four elliptic medallions. The upper part with a container is three-levelled, quadrilateral; individual levels are surrounded with low barriers; the walls are filled with filigree—tinier in the lower part of the framework with volute motifs. The top is crowned with a flèche with a bell, a pyramidal roof on it with an openwork ball of silver wire and a flag at its top.
On one of the sides of the base three goldsmith marks, including: "T" in the oval and maybe name mark (?) "JV".

Elaborated by Eugeniusz Duda (Historical Museum of the City of Kraków), © all rights reserved

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Different forms of besamin boxes

Besamin boxes—also known as censers or scent boxes—can take on various forms; the most common ones, however, are tower-shaped besamin boxes, like the ones belonging to the collection of the Historical Museum of the City of Kraków and the Irena and Mieczysław Mazaraki Museum in Chrzanów presented on our website...

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Besamin boxes—also known as censers or scent boxes—can take on various forms; the most common ones, however, are tower-shaped besamin boxes, like the ones belonging to the collection of the Historical Museum of the City of Kraków and the Irena and Mieczysław Mazaraki Museum in Chrzanów presented on our website.
This is the most popular form of spice boxes, widely known as early as the Middle Ages. Its appearance often imitated local architecture, whereas the symbolical point of reference was the Strong Tower, being the Biblical symbol of God. Besamin boxes were usually made of silver, sometimes of other metals and were often decorated with enamel and precious stones. A widely popular technique was fine filigree, visible also in our two exhibits.

Elaborated by the editorial team of Małopolska's Virtual Museums,
Licencja Creative Commons

 This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Poland License.

See:
Besamin tower box
Besamin tower box from Vienna

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What are besamin boxes used for?

What are the origins for the custom of inhaling herb scents at the end of the Sabbath and what does it symbolise?
This is the trace of the times when the Jews made sacrifices in the Temple of Jerusalem. After its final destruction by the Romans (AD 70), the Jews abandoned the sacrificial cult. In the times of the diaspora, they replaced...

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What are the origins for the custom of inhaling herb scents at the end of the Sabbath and what does it symbolise?
This is the trace of the times when the Jews made sacrifices in the Temple of Jerusalem. After its final destruction by the Romans (AD 70), the Jews abandoned the sacrificial cult. In the times of the diaspora, they replaced it with prayer and rituals which referred to its elements. Inhaling scents during Havdalah, a ceremony of the symbolical separation of sacred time (i.e. Sabbath, in the shortened version also other holidays) from ordinary weekdays. It is the trace of the incense offering made in the Temple (along with the food offerings—from animals). The incense can be burnt only in the Temple and only by the priests.
Today, the ritual of inhaling scents can be held both in the synagogue as well as at home. The person conducting the Havdalah ceremony takes a besamin box in his or her right hand and utters the following blessing:
Baruch atah Hashem Elokeinu Melech ha-olam bore' minei vesamim
(Blessed are You, Hashem, our G-d, King of the universe, Who creates species of fragrance.)
Next he or she smells the fragrances and passes them to the others.
According to the tradition, the pleasant aroma is intended to alleviate the sad moment of losing the additional soul, which accompanies each Jew during the Sabbath and leaves them upon its termination. Moreover, it is designed to enhance the inhaling before the hardships of the weekdays to come.

Elaborated by Kinga Kołodziejska (Editorial team of Małopolska's Virtual Museums),
Licencja Creative Commons

 This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Poland License.

See:
Besamin tower box
Besamin tower box from Vienna
Fish-shaped besamin box
Spice container from Austro-Hungary

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Jeweller’s code

Objects derived from noble metals were usually marked with signs, so-called features. Their appearance on goldsmith’s products, their number and significance were related to regulations issued by craftsmen's guilds, then also by city and state authorities. These small marks with numbers and symbols in various shapes, which often remind us of cavities, are an extremely valuable source of information about the artwork. It is possible to specify several types of symbols when recognizing their elements and functions.

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Objects derived from noble metals were usually marked with signs, so-called features. Their appearance on goldsmith’s products, their number and significance were related to regulations issued by craftsmen's guilds, then also by city and state authorities. These small marks with numbers and symbols in various shapes, which often remind us of cavities, are an extremely valuable source of information about the artwork. It is possible to specify several types of symbols when recognizing their elements and functions. However, we should remember that their form has changed over the course of history, differing according to location, which makes things difficult because of their quantity.
The first group of features is formed by the individual marks of particular masters as well as workshops. These could include the full name of the master; however, they often appeared in the forms of the majuscule initials. In this case, there was a risk of repeating the monograms, hence—to make a distinction—they were placed in various fields, sometimes with a very fanciful form. In some cases, the mark of the workshop or the later company was also a house mark (in stonemasonry, the signature of the author in a form of a symbol on the stone’s surface)
However, the most common were hallmarks that indicated the percentage of silver contained in the material used for a given goldsmith product. There were many marking schemes, depending on the time, territory, and ruling power, and they were governed by strict regulations. Thanks to this, however, it is possible to determine the approximate time and place of the creation of the work by properly recognizing the features. Hallmarks began to use digital symbols from approximately the nineteenth century (the unit of weight was Lot, hence the lot system), whereas earlier, the town mark itself indicated that the then applicable amount of silver had been used in the alloy.
Town marks support combining products with specific centres. As a sign, they took the form of the coat of arms of the city (or its fragment), sometimes also the entire name of the city, or its first letter.
To check the quality of the products, the works were also marked in state hallmarking centres, hence their name. The hallmark features, made according to the given pattern, contained information about the silver's purity, and sometimes also the date and the letter of the city. At the end of the 18th century, they appeared on the territories of the former Republic of Poland, initially introduced in the Austrian partition.
Furthermore, the contribution features are an interesting example. They marked works which—according to the Austrian contribution (1806)—had been confiscated, and which were then bought up and given back to the owners. That's why they could be found even on very old products. Such features primarily had a letter indicating the hallmarking centre of a given territory.
Among many additional markings and types of features (there are also customs or reserve features, hallmarks or pawnbroker’s marks, and even marks indicating the dates); the above-mentioned ones constitute their basis.
It should, first of all, be realized that goldsmith marks are a very functional tool thanks to which we are able to—sometimes even with high accuracy—date the work, determine the place of its creation, its author, and trace its history. The goldsmith features—just like any cipher—have their own codification. Catalogues of marks are the best source to learn how to recognize them; nevertheless, they are still not fully drafted.

Elaborated byPaulina Kluz (Editorial Team of Malopolskas Virtual Museums),
Licencja Creative Commons

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Poland License.

Bibliography:
Michał Gradowski, Dawne złotnictwo: technika i terminologia, Warszawa 1980;
Michał Gradowski, Znaki probiercze na zabytkowych srebrach w Polsce, Warszawa 1988;
Michał Gradowski, Znaki na srebrze: znaki miejskie i państwowe używane na terenie Polski w obecnych jej granicach, Warszawa 1994.

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Ornamental subtexts

One of the ideas guiding us in the creation of the portal “Malopolska’s Virtual Museums” is to draw attention to the details of the exhibits, often overlooked intricate decorations, which sometimes surprise when looking closer at the texture and shapes of the presented objects. We strive to use advanced technology to bring out these details and draw people closer to them. With the help of such “magnification”, we would like you to stop you for a moment, or maybe even sometimes make you feel delighted?
What do the ornaments want? What are they to a work of art? Could an ornament be a signature? These, and many other interesting questions, came up during the LXIII National Science Session of the Association of Art Historians entitled Ornament and decoration of a work of art (November 20-22, 2014, Krakow), in which we had the pleasure of participating, presenting exhibits selected for the conference subject matter from the collection of Malopolska’s Virtual Museums.

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One of the ideas guiding us in the creation of the portal “Malopolska’s Virtual Museums” is to draw attention to the details of the exhibits, often overlooked intricate decorations, which sometimes surprise when looking closer at the texture and shapes of the presented objects. We strive to use advanced technology to bring out these details and draw people closer to them. With the help of such “magnification”, we would like you to stop you for a moment, or maybe even sometimes make you feel delighted?
What do the ornaments want? What are they to a work of art? Could an ornament be a signature? These, and many other interesting questions, came up during the LXIII National Science Session of the Association of Art Historians entitled Ornament and decoration of a work of art (November 20-22, 2014, Krakow), in which we had the pleasure of participating, presenting exhibits selected for the conference subject matter from the collection of Malopolska’s Virtual Museums.

All presented objects, seemingly diverse, with a different purpose, being results of the work of manufacturers from different cultures, different types of crafts and artistic periods, are united by one thing: their own ornamentation.
The tendency to decorate, results from the inner need of a human being to aestheticize the surrounding space and the elements organizing it. The motifs and their sets, characteristic for particular periods of history—which created the ornament and thus a certain decorative form—covered and organized the surface of the works. We encounter ornaments in all fields of arts and crafts. It is an inseparable component of a work, even if it does not appear physically, it reflects conscious non-use: an absence. The relationship of an ornament to an object used to vary; it was an accompanying form, its decoration; it could determine the divisions of planes, but, over time, it distinguished itself and assumed the primary role. Treated autonomously, it created forms which constituted artworks in themselves. However, its relation to the surface vacillated from horror vacui to amor vacui, down to complete cleansing. Ornamental forms had their origins in nature, or they were treated as the main source of inspiration, hence the distinction between geometric, vegetal, and animal ornamentation. Its gradual transformation was aimed at achieving an abstract shape, which was, however, still intuitively rooted in reality, or was rather transformed reality:  a set of familiar elements combined in fanciful forms with a surprising relationship to each other.
Distinguishing its character, its accompanying motives and inspirations—including its essence—allows one to get a lot of information about the work itself. This can be done on many levels. A non-accidental juxtaposition of seemingly different objects in a single presentation—in each case adorned with ornamentation—opens up a new field for their interpretation and finding correlations between them.
The desirability of decoration is visible in each of the objects presented—whether in the works of “highbrow”, professional, or folk art—there is an evident need of the conscious or often intuitive use of sometimes very naive ornamental forms, which marked divisions contouring the shape of the object and filling its surface (see: Powder cone, Painted wooden chest with a drawer, Sculpture “Mother of God of Skępe”).
The variety of forms of decoration and ornamentation that has appeared on works from particular cultural circles has been conditioned by many factors. Undoubtedly, the most important was the fashion prevailing at that time, which specified the formal repertoire used, or access to sources of inspiration. However, in most cultures—especially eastern ones—there was a dominant tendency to draw inspiration from nature, which formed the basis for shaping ornamentation in multiple versions (cf. Enamelled vase, Besamin tower box from Vienna, Jewel box, A dyeing template). The ban on figurative art—particularly in Islamic and Jewish culture—led to developing ornamentation as the only acceptable form of art which fully utilized the repertoire of plant and geometrical forms.
The intended purpose of these objects, differing from one another to an extreme extent, allows one to notice that the ornamentation decorating them is not dependent on their function. An ornament is non-political and non-ideological; hence, it was possible to use the same motif on everyday objects and objects of worship (see: Armchair with handrails, Mug with a cover, Chalice). The situation was similar in the case of particular fields of craft, characterized by different techniques, where, regardless of their variety and degree of difficulty, the same ornamental forms appeared. Thus, the quintessence of the ornament is the manipulation of its form. And yet this form itself was specific to the era in which it crystallized. An example of this can be rocaille, containing in its shape, elements and behaviour, epithets corresponding to the Rococo period (see: A woman’s fan). A somewhat different usage and problem, however, was posed by the fact the decoration could take the form of representation, and thus carry specific information, often referring to the purpose of the work or its founder (see: Horn of Salt Diggers Brotherhood of Wieliczka, Baroque chasuble).
Many kinds of contextual trails—which combine different objects on different levels—can be created. Despite their otherness, we can find many correlational factors among them. We encourage you to look for your own links between the objects presented and the function of the ornaments and decorations, which allow you to see the work from a different perspective: both formal and interpretive.

Opracowanie: Paulina Kluz (Redakcja WMM),
Licencja Creative Commons

 Ten utwór jest dostępny na licencji Creative Commons Uznanie autorstwa 3.0 Polska.

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Besamin tower box from Vienna

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