article # 89



by Paulina Wojdak
(click on photos to enlarge image)


Volumes were written about silver forms in gothic, renaissance and baroque, but hardly silver collectors have knowledge and information about Polish silver. The objective of this article is to familiarize collectors with 19th century Polish sugar boxes and illustrate types and varieties of these daily used items.
In Polandís social life of the 19th century sumptuous dinners were a rare event. More often householders invited guests for an afternoon tea party, where the sugar bowl was the most important decoration on the table.
Generally speaking the Polish 19th century sugar bowl was a box placed on four legs and just in that shape it preceded formal transformations that were relative to period taste and new styles in art.
The box shape became very popular in the 19th century. It was a different form in comparison with that used in the previous century, when the most typical were round and oval sugar bowls.
Around 1800 the most popular sugar container seems to be a simple box with slightly bulged lid, without any decorative ornamentation.
Sugar box of early 19th c., by G.V. Vogtmann
Sugar box dating from the 1820s, by Tomasz Klimaszewski
The new type of sugar box appeared about 1815, after Napoleonís wars. It was a box with cut angles, covered profile lid and lock up with key.
This shape was very popular in the 1820s and 1830s. The sides and the top (or top and bottom) were decorated with an ornamental strip of floral motifs.
The profiled lid (and sometimes the front side or the lateral sides as well) were decorated with plaquettes cast or sculpted in delicate bas-relief.
The typical ornaments for these plaquettes were floral motifs, horns of plenty, flower bunches and figural compositions (allegorical or inspired to the mythology).

Sugar box dating from the 1830s, by Karol Filip Malcz
Further modifications took place in the 1840s, when the "Empire style" changed into historic styles. The shapes of Polish sugar boxes went in two directions.
A type of "sucrier" was represented by baroque patterns while another one adopted more modest shapes.
In the first instance the boxes were characterized by ostensive, redundant and richly decorated forms.
The distinctive feature was projection on the lid (instead of earlier plaquettes) of fruits, flowers or animal forms.
These form of sugar boxes was very popular in the next decade
Sugar box dating from 1860, by Jan Pogorzelski
Sugar box dating from about 1850, by Emil Radke
A less redundant type of still richly decorated sugar boxes appeared a little later (in the 50s and 60s). It had concave sides surrounded by heavy ornamented half-rolls (at the top and bottom) with figural projections or protruding low relief plaquettes on the lid.
Sugar box dating 1853, by Maciej Nowakowski
Sugar box dating from about 1860, by Emil Radke

A second type of sugar boxes followed a totally opposite and very simple style. It consisted in modest boxes with flat lid, straight sides and rounded edges.
The decoration was limited to simple, neo-rococo engraving. The boxes were supported by four ball-shaped legs. Characteristic feature was the thumbpiece in the form of a set of small conjoined balls on the edge of the lid.
Sometimes a pair of swinging handles was fastened to the sides. This type was popular in 50s and 60s and in the next two decades evolved to delicately concave sides or vertical rolls on the corners.
Sugar box dating from 1860, by Edward Schreider

In the last quarter of the 19th century the Polish sugar holder evolved to the form of sugar bowl of oval shape.
New solutions were adopted, like discontinuation of inserting lock in the front, use of solid decorated legs and lid sunk into the oval body.
Besides the legs, the only decorative motives were handles protruding on the lid. This form was typical of the 1880s .
Sugar bowl dating from 1890s, by Izrael Szekamn

New changes happened at the end of the 19th century.
We expect that the new "secession style" had huge influence on the shape of Polish silver boxes, but here we have two surprises.
First of all art nouveau elements were not popular in Polish silver - typical secessionist items were produced in silver plate and tin. Art nouveau in silver appeared much later (about 1910) and not in the shape of silver items but as engraved ornaments.
The second surprise was the return of the form dating from the 1860s in the shape of a modest box with rounded angles.
These items are identical to the ancient models, the new form maintain even pearl-like handles. The major differences were the absence of lock and key replaced by a latch opened by a button and differently engraved ornaments.
Sugar bowl dating 1905-1907, by Piotr Latkowski
These were the types of silver sugar bowls dominating in Poland in the 19th century.
There are some other types absolutely different that canít be attributed to any of these groups.
They were individual projects or echo of foreign fashion.

Paulina Wojdak - 2007 -