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At present, the tableware of the Polish royal court is known to us almost exclusively from archive materials. The majority of preserved single items or their designs come from Augsburg – the most important centre of the European goldsmithery in the 17th and 18th centuries. Among these items, the most outstanding is the state set of John Casimir Vasa.

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The vessel is in the form of the Polish Eagle, with a double spout – through an open beak and closed with a crown. Its high oval two-part base consists of a bulging foot and a smooth shaft topped with the real base of the figure. At the feet, besides bunches of fruit, there are two emblematic depictions: one of a wanderer in front of a pyramid, and a woman kneeling in front of a cage. The body of the vessel reflects the form of a bird lifting off with its wings raised, holding a set of insignia with its right leg, consisting of an orb, a sceptre, and a sword. Its other leg is resting on terrain modelled with stones, grass and leaves.
At present, the tableware of the Polish royal court is known to us almost exclusively from archive materials. The majority of preserved single items or their designs made for Sigismund III, John Casimir, John III, and Augustus II, come from Augsburg – the most important centre of the European goldsmithery in the 17th and 18th centuries. Among these items, the most outstanding is the state set of John Casimir Vasa (1609–1672, date of reign 1648–1668). The central element of the set is a front facing monumental Eagle, a work of Abraham I Drentwett dated around 1650, finished by Heinrich Mannlich after its author's death, and donated to Aleksey Mikhaylovich in 1671 (the Tsar of Russia in the years 1645–1676) by the so called great legation of Michael Korybut Wiśniowiecki (1640–1673, King of Poland since 1669). This great Eagle was accompanied by smaller figures created by Mannlich, including the presented Eagle, as well as a Gotlandic lion, preserved at Kremlin, and, hypothetically, Pagonia (Pogoń). The coats of arms were treated at variance with heraldry rules, as they created a distinctly oriented arrangement – the bird is not depicted symmetrically, looking straight, but it turns its head to one side. Such an arrangement may be explained only after grouping the figures around the central Eagle. Emblematic depictions on the vessel bases are probable allusions to the virtues of an ideal ruler, or they are related to the supposedly Roman origin of the Polish national emblem.

Elaborated by Dariusz Nowacki (Wawel Royal Castle), editorial team of Małopolska’s Virtual Museums, © all rights reserved

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Vessel in the shape of the Polish Eagle

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