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Aside from its practical functions, the silver tableware collected and stored in Old Polish houses also had representative functions. There was also a separate group of dishes of a primarily decorative character, whose original, sophisticated form, perfection of composition, and materials used for their production were to dazzle and delight the guests.

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Aside from its practical functions, the silver tableware collected and stored in Old Polish houses also had representative functions. There was also a separate group of dishes of a primarily decorative character, whose original, sophisticated form, perfection of composition, and materials used for their production were to dazzle and delight the guests. These were luxury items and — because of the very high price — only the wealthiest magnates and richest nobles could afford them. Such objects were supposed to not only constitute material evidence of the wealth of their owner, but also to prove his sophisticated artistic taste.
In the Renaissance, Mannerism and Baroque periods, typical vessels of this type were roztruchans: large, silver cups, usually in zoomorphic shapes (for example eagles, peacocks, griffins, owls, and lions), used to celebrate particularly solemn toasts and to decorate tables. Apart from silver and gold, exotic materials were also used for making and decorating them: shells of sea snails (such vessels were called nautiluses), coconuts, ostrich eggs, horns of rhinos, ivory and amber, embedded in intricate silver and gold frames. These cups were often decorated with mythological figures and sea deities, along with their emblems and attributes. In the 16th century, they were mainly made in Nuremberg and Augsburg, and also in the 17th century in Gdańsk. The vessels of this type, preserved to this day, are testimony to the highest craftsmanship of the old goldsmith masters and reflect the tastes of the era in which they were created.

Elaborated by Łukasz Sęk (District Museum in Tarnów), © all rights reserved

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“Roztruchan” decorative cup

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