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The Lustre of Old Silver in Vilnius Residents’ Private Collections

Event date: 2022 y.December1207 d. - 2023 y.February0219 d.00:00 All events
Valdovų rūmai
Relevant until 2023-02-19

Silver works have been highly valued since time immemorial, being used in both sacred and daily life. The first silver works found their way to Lithuania in around the 1st century in the form of imperial Roman coins. Local silver works started being created in the 13th century. The first of these were silver currency units, but by the 13th–14th centuries, silver utensils and tableware must have also started being produced. Over the centuries, many skilled goldsmiths worked in Lithuania who created pieces out of silver and gold for the rulers, clergy, magnates and wealthier townspeople. Already in the court of Grand Duke of Lithuania Gediminas, in the first half of the 14th century, reference is made to a goldsmith named Jokūbas. On August 23, 1495 in Trakai, Grand Duke of Lithuania Alexander confirmed the statute of the Vilnius goldsmiths’ guild, while the guild itself was founded by a group of experienced goldsmiths that had arrived from goldsmithery centres in Poland and Germany. Some of these goldsmiths worked in the courts of the ruler of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and for magnates; probably the most famous of these was the Renaissance master Giovanni Jacopo Caraglio (1505–1565) from Verona, who was widely acclaimed in Europe and worked in the court of Sigismund Augustus.

            This exhibition presents silver treasures currently in the collections of Vilnius’ collectors. The first part of the exhibition presents the earliest works to have been created in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania in the 17th and 18th centuries. These include 17th-century silver spoons, a signet ring, a belt decorated with silver details, a coffee pot made by Georg Ludwig Kikenap (active 1779 – after 1797), a goldsmith who worked for Karol Stanisław Radziwiłł in the 18th century, and other works. In addition there are sacred works representing various faiths – painting casings (riza), chalices, a reliquary, a ciborium, a censer for incense, a phylactery and Kiddush goblets. The second and largest part of the exhibition features works by goldsmiths who were active in Vilnius in the 18th–19th centuries. Thanks to the generous collectors, it has been possible to assemble a variety of pieces by famous Vilnius goldsmiths in one place, and thus present a retrospective of their work. Visitors to this exhibition will be able to see works by Thadeus Skędzierski († 1789, active 1768–1789), a goldsmith who worked in Vilnius right at the very end of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth’s existence, and his son Ignacy Skędzierski (1769–1806, active 1790–1806). Beside their works, also on display are works by a pupil of the latter, Wojciech Jastrzębski (1765–1837, active 1793–1837), originally from the Voivodeship of Krakow, who worked in Vilnius from 1790 – dishes decorated with silver coins, caddies and other works; also, a bowl created by the goldsmith’s son Jan Jastrzembski (active 1840–1859), not to mention tableware by other goldsmiths marked with the symbol of Wojciech Jastrzębski’s widow, Dorota Jastrzębska (she headed the workshop in 1837–1859). Some very rare tableware is presented at this exhibition, made by the Berlin-born goldsmith Jacob Gustaw Hahn (1756–1835, active 1790–1835), who worked in Vilnius from 1790. Incidentally, near his works visitors can see pieces created by his pupils, Ludwig Röhr (1776–1838, active 1807–1838) and Krzysztof Benjamin Wagner (active 1796–1843), one of the most famous 19th-century Vilnius goldsmiths, exceptional for their tasteful form and mastered décor. Vilnius’ goldsmithery tradition continues in the exhibition with tableware, sugar caddies and salt basins by the pupils of Wojciech Jastrzębski and Krzysztof Benjamin Wagner, Leopold Krupiński (active 1813–1840) and Jan Tumiłło-Daniszewski († 1880, active 1844–1880). The exhibition also boasts pieces by other Vilnius goldsmiths including Jakub Preizyg (active from 1811 (?)), Antoni Poluta (active from 1814), Friedrich Wilhelm Rykmann (1821–1856, active 1840–1856), and others.

            There are also exceptionally rare examples of work by Kaunas goldsmiths, not to mention some by masters from Königsberg and Klaipėda, on display in the third part of the exhibition. This showcase of silver works ends with treasures associated with the legacy of Lithuania’s magnate families. These are mostly dishes made in Poland, the Austro-Hungarian Empire or elsewhere, which were later decorated with the coats of arms of Lithuania’s magnates and used on a daily basis. A number of interesting valuables owned by the collectors supplements the exhibition, among which is a wine cup created in the Roman Empire in the 2nd–3rd centuries, a coin-decorated beaker made in Danzig in the 17th century, and more. 

            Exhibits for this exhibition were kindly loaned by the following famous collectors – Kęstutis Mickevičius, Paulius Steponavičius, Mantas Steponavičius, Zigfridas Jankauskas, Rimvydas Baranauskas, Viačeslav Zdanovič and others, also the Lithuanian Art Centre TARTLE and UAB “Bikuvos prekyba”.

Published:: 2022-12-02 12:00 Modified: 2022-12-02 18:48
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