Exhibition: Beauty of the table. Tableware from the Czartoryski collection

The exhibition entitled “Beauty of the Table. Tableware from the Czartoryski Collection” displayed between 8.11.2018 and 19.05.2019 in the Saltworks Castle in Wieliczka presents the wealth of the Polish table culture in former centuries.

The exhibition was organised by the Cracow Saltworks Museum in Wieliczka in cooperation with the National Museum in Cracow, which made available its most interesting exhibits from the famous Princes Czartoryski Collection. The excellent collection, initiated by Princess Izabela Czartoryska in Puławy, is not only the oldest Polish set of museum items, but for two hundred years it has been the most important treasure trove of tokens of national history and culture. The exhibition provides an opportunity for admiring exhibits which in the past belonged to royal and aristocratic families, as well as artefacts related to important persons, e.g. Field Marshal Stefan Czarniecki. Owing to the generosity of subsequent generations of patriots, they were hidden and smuggled through borders, survived the times of partitions, national insurrections and huge damages caused by the two world wars.

Polished Nautilus shell mounted in gilt, wrought, cast and engraved silver

You are heartily invited to become acquainted with the phenomenon of Polish feasts which formed an important element in the Old Polish culture and art of Europe. The exhibition takes the viewers back to the times when guests brought their own expensive spoons to the feasts and toasts were raised with the use of sophisticated goblets, called roztruchan or nautilus. Meals were served on gold and silver plates decorated with coats of arms, whereas beverages in decorative goblets, precious cups and unique chalices. Thus, viewers can see a “kovsh” and a “bratina” or even the alleged “pocket flask”, which the French king used to take with him whilst hunting, i.e. a bottle carved in precious rock crystal in the shape of a grape cluster (16th century). Tokens of monarchs (plate of Queen Constance, the wife of King Sigismund III Vasa) are presented next to elegant porcelain tableware, e.g. used by the Czartoryski family in their rural estate in Parchatka. The examples of unique tableware shown at the exhibition were produced in Polish and European workshops in the period between the 16th and the 19th century, i.e. in the oldest plants in Korzec and Meissen and in leading goldsmith centres in Augsburg, Nuremberg, Gdańsk and Wrocław. They constitute outstanding works of applied art which were used by the Polish royal and magnate families in the past; Polish viewers can admire them relatively rarely, for example the Italian majolica ware and painted enamel items from Limoges (16th century). Selected artworks also include items that are almost 500 years old. In Wieliczka, various artistic handicraft items, e.g. a cabinet from approx. 1600, a tile clock from Gdańsk, a Turkish tapestry from the 1st half of the 17th century, accompanied by descriptions of feasts and views of residences make the image of former Polish courtly celebrations complete.

Elegant items reflect the splendour of former manor houses where not only the silver tableware, but also other luxurious items shown to the participants to feasts were aimed at impressing and stunning them – with fantasy, unique materials, wealth of the host and craft of the artist. Attention should also be drawn to truly luxurious Renaissance and Baroque vessels: chalices with unique forms, cups and goblets. The refined taste of princes and aristocrats is also evidenced by elegant 18th and 19th century tableware made of “white gold” i.e. porcelain. The exhibition presents the veritable luxury and sophistication of the former tables.


Exhibition curator: Klementyna Ochniak-Dudek in cooperation with Anna Lebet-Minakowska

Exhibition design: Marek Suchowiak

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