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It is the oldest of the dated donations of Casimir the Great for Polish churches. The Roman form of the basic chalice components and some of its motifs (e.g. small rounded arch arcades) coexists here organically with raised Gothic ornamentation, setting this impressive vessel apart from other goldsmith works of the 14th century.

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The chalice with a circular foot, a round shaft and a large nodus, as well as a tall conical goblet with slightly round sides. The foot has a small profiled pedestal consisting of openwork quatrefoils. On the covering of the foot, against a background of engraved small scales, acanthus leaves are spirally placed. Among them are four-leaf medallions with busts of the Mother of God, Christ, and Saint Adalbert. The shaft is separated from the foot, the goblet and the nodus with a motif of obliquely twisted wire, decorated with semicircular arcades. On the nodus, there are six oval medallions of uneven shape, with busts of Mother of God, Christ, and four Evangelists (?), with small five-petal rosettes attached among them. The top and bottom parts of the nodus are ornamented with obliquely placed small oak branches with leaves and fruit, as well as with elongated traceries against a hatched background. The goblet is broad and smooth. On the edge of the foot, against a hatched background, there is an inscription of Gothic majuscule: + KASIMIRVS * REX * POLONIE * CON[!]PARAVIT * ANNO * DOMINI * M * CCC * LI.
The chalice was funded by Casimir III the Great (1310-1370, king since 1333) for the Church of the Holy Virgin Mary and Archangel Michael of the Canons Regular of the Lateran in Trzemeszno, one of the main centres of Saint Adalbert's worship. It was kept there until 5 August 1940, when it was stolen by the Germans. Then it was taken to Berlin by Dr. Rühl. It was on the antiquarian market since 1960. It was offered to Wawel by Czesław Bednarczyk in 1962, and then, two years later, by Dr. Kurt Rossacher of Salzburg. Finally, it was bought by Julian Godlewski and donated to Wawel Royal Castle in 1965.
It is the oldest of the dated donations of Casimir the Great for Polish churches. The Roman form of the basic chalice components and some of its motifs (e.g. small rounded arch arcades) coexists here organically with raised Gothic ornamentation, setting this impressive vessel apart from other goldsmith works of the 14th century. The lack of distinguishing factors separating goldsmith works in Polish territory of that time makes it impossible to specify the exact place where the vessel was created.

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

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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 by Paulina Kluz (Editorial team of Małopolskas 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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