The first exotic exhibit arrived in the Ethnographic Museum in Kraków as early as in the first year of its operation. This Chinese saddle from Harbin was given by Julian Juliusz Szymański PhD, an ophthalmologist from Chicago, or actually from Kielce, located within the territory of the Russian Empire at the time.
This is a ceramic work – a technique that is inseparable from Chinese culture. The porcelain objects were fired in Jingdezhen, a city famous for its ceramics. The six elements in the MOCAK Collection, which simulate crude oil stains, are part of a 25-part installation. The work is a commentary on contemporary economic conditioning. Oil – a resource that impacts on international politics – symbolically “stains“ the world.
A large vase with a hemispherical goblet coated with cloisonné enamel. According to its donor, the vase comes from the Summer Palace of Beijing from the era of the Chinese emperors of the Qing dynasty. It was destroyed in 1860, and then again in 1900.
One of the two twin longcase clocks, decorated with the imitation of green Far Eastern lacquer, comes from the castle in Podhorce, belonging originally to the Rzewuski family and subsequently purchased together with its furnishings by the Sanguszko family. The clock cases distinguish themselves with the pseudo-Chinese decoration painted in gold, enriched with European motifs and “Chinese” figural scenes and landscapes.
The presented salt shaker is an example of early white-blue pottery, which is decorated with cobalt blue. It is a rare form of Far Eastern porcelain imported to Europe. The object has come a long way to the collection of the Wieliczka Museum, because it was made in China during the Kangxi period (1662–1722).
Chinese and Japanese porcelain was once an extremely valuable and desirable product in Europe, which was already being imported in the Middle Ages. It was called “white gold”, because it commanded value comparable to this precious metal and was often used as its substitute (e.g. as a gift). At that time, porcelain was viewed as a synonym of luxury and its possession testified to the splendour of the house; only the wealthiest people — mainly royalty — could afford it. In the modern era — in connection with the fashion for Orientalism — porcelain gained such great popularity, that a great effort was made to discover how it was manufactured: one of the most guarded secrets of the East.
How many exotic lands should we visit to follow their trail throughout centuries of history? How much of human history is hidden inside this apparently completely innocuous and frivolous object?