The goblet was probably made in one of the North Bohemian glass-cutting centres before the mid—18th century. It is meticulously engraved with an intricately rendered design; the front side of the faceted bowl features a view of Amsterdam, one of Europe’s chief centres of trade with overseas territories.
This theme is discernible in the many merchant vessels depicted in the foreground and the inscription AMSTELO-DAMUM above the scene. The reverse side of the bowl is decorated with the coat of arms of Amsterdam, consisting of three Saint Andrew’s crosses in an escutcheon formed of three vertical bands. The crosses are believed to symbolize the three foremost dangers that afflicted the city: floods, fires and the plague. The bowl and the foot are adorned with finely-engraved scrolls and miniature figures of Mercury – the Roman god of trade. As was common in those days, the goblet is likely to have been intended as a gift and was presented to an unknown person – perhaps a distinguished merchant of Amsterdam, or a trade partner who distributed merchandise via this city to continental Europe.
However, it is the modern history of the object that is of particular interest. In 1894, the goblet was purchased from the art firm of A. S. Drey in Munich, Bavaria, for the collections of the museum in Liberec, headed at the time by Gustav E. Pazaurek, a prominent art historian and glass collector.
The goblet (including its now-missing lid) was listed under the inventory number K II 162 in the museum’s original inventory. Judging from period photographs, Pazaurek exhibited the item that same year in a public display of new acquisitions. The goblet remained in the museum’s collections until the end of World War II, during which period the museum’s activities gradually decreased and eventually terminated altogether. Its collections were deposited in several North Bohemian chateaus. Unfortunately, this precious goblet (and other artefacts) disappeared during their return transfer to the museum after 1945 only to resurfaced again in 1970, when a private collector purchased the object in Munich for inclusion in the collections of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation (Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz) for the Museum of Decorative Arts (Kunstgewerbemuseum) in Berlin.
The fate of the goblet featuring a cityscape of Amsterdam has now been linked to the story of an entirely different object – an ivory ewer, richly decorated with mythological scenes, carved in high relief. This item was created by the artist Johann Michael Maucher of South Germany in the final quarter of the 17th century. In 1965, the ewer was purchased for the UPM’s collections (inv. no. 66 656) in an antique shop in Teplice. Shortly afterwards it was determined that the ewer had been originally kept in the collections of the Royal Art Chamber in Berlin (Königliche Kunstkammer, inv. no. K 3137).
During World War II, the piece was hidden in a different place along with other artefacts from Berlin, from where it was stolen in 1945.
During a visit to the UPM in the 1980s, Berlin scholars noticed that the ewer had an original (German) inventory number. However, the country’s political circumstances in those days were not inclined towards any sort of solution, including an exchange of artefacts. The exchange occurred only after the German party offered the aforesaid goblet with an engraved view of Amsterdam in replacement. This unique story of two valuable objects in the context of Central Europe’s troubled history demonstrates how coincidence accompanied by good will can play an important role in constituting museum collections. Two objects, two stories, one (happy) end....
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From the exchange of artefacts between Helena Koenigsmarková, Director of the Museum of Decorative Arts in Prague, and Lothar Lambacher, Chief Curator of the Museum of Decorative Arts in Berlin.
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