Spring 2020: Silver – Fine Arts, Art Fair and Exhibition:

HELGA MATZKE EUROPEAN SILVER will be present this spring:

TEFAF in Maastricht March 7th – March 15th 2020, at booth 165.


“Central European Drinking Culture and a Royal Silver Dinner Table (16th to 18th Centuries)”
between April 18th – September 30th 2020, at the Cracow Saltworks Museum in Wieliczka, Poland.

We are exhibitors at TEFAF Maastricht, the so-called “world’s leading fair for fine art, antiques and design.” In 2020 HELGA MATZKE EUROPEAN SILVER will again present silver tableware of courtly provenance and historical art objects made of silver, originating from the 16th to the 18th century.

Part of our extraordinary collection can be seen at the Exhibition “HELGA MATZKE PRESENTS: CENTAL EUROPEAN DRINKING CULTURE AND ROYAL SILVER DINNER TABLE (16th-18th C). The exhibition has been staged by the Cracow Saltworks Museum in Wieliczka in cooperation with HELGA MATZKE. It will take place at the Cracow Saltworks Museum in Wieliczka.



1) In a short “IntroductionJan Godlowski, Director of Cracow Saltworks Museum in Wieliczka, Poland explains the cultural and trade exchange between Cracow and cities of southern Germany, which were connected through the important medieval trade route “Via Regia.” The income of the salt gave the royal court and wealthy citizens in Cracow the possibility to import art works and bring artists into the city. Today, salt is no longer extracted in the mines. Tourism replaces this source of income to the city – while the exchange of art works remains – visualized in this exhibition.

2) Fred Matzke, senior partner and co-founder of HELGA MATZKE welcomes the reader in his “Welcoming address” with a laudation of the fine arts. Founded by Helga and Fred Matzke in 1973 HELGA MATZKE EUROPEAN SILVER is now one of the international leading art dealers for European, historical silver, with a long-term experience in trading with silver objects. Being We are a reliable partner for international museums and collectors.

3) In a “Brief note on the Cracow Saltworks Museum in WieliczkaJan Godlowski illustrates the history of salt and it´s collection in the Wielieczka region, dating back to Neolithic times. Salt mining operations in this area started in the 13th century and have been in operation until today, building “a living example of one of the oldest industrial plants in the world.” The Museum of Cracow Saltworks was founded in 1951, in a still fully operational salt mine (until 1996). It is possible to explore Wieliczkas underground, disused workings, examine mining machinery and tools in such a special way, that it was inscribed as “first industrial heritage site” in the first UNESCO world heritage list in 1978. In 2013 it was enlarged to “Wieliczka and Bochnia Royal Salt Mines.”

Today, the Museum includes the Saltworks Castle and the mine on Level III, providing the largest underground museum space in the world, 135 m deep beneath the ground level. The Museum in midst of a 750-year-old salt mine, displays original mining machinery and equipment, dating back to the 17th and 18th centuries, which shows a technologically diversified range of machines.

The Saltworks Castle, historical seat of the management of the mines in Wieliczka and Bochnia, houses the art collection. It preserves archival records, dating back to 1492, a collection of 4500 old maps and plans, illustrating the development of the mines as well as a photograph collection, the oldest photos dating back to 1884.

Since 1973, the Saltworks Castle is an exhibition venue for a prized collection of salt cellars, made of wood, glass, ceramic, silver and other metals, extended since 2013 through foreign purchases. It now ranks among the best collections of salt cellars and shakers worldwide.

4) Klementyna Ochniak-Dudek, Curator of Cracow Saltworks Museum in Wieliczka, Poland emphasizes in her article, “Worth their salt. Historical salt cellars. The Collection of Cracow Saltworks Museum in Wieliczka,” the huge variety of almost 1000 salt cellars of the Cracow collection. A brief note to the high appreciation of salt and a short history of European condiment vessels, is followed by an overview of highlights of the collection, especially the ones made of gold, silver, and ceramics.

The article illustrates the importance and size of the Cracow collection, which gives the unique opportunity to trace back the evolution of the salt cellars, shows their formal changes, dictated by vogue, tastes, as well as dining habits and rituals. The extensive collections of the museum reach from valuable silver-gilt Renaissance salt vessels, made in Augsburg and Nuremberg, to Baroque salt cellars from the oldest European porcelain manufactory in Meissen. They include porcelain figurines, belonging to elaborate centerpieces, which were used as eyecatchers on the table and containers of seasoning at the same time.

A suite of four male and female figures – allegories of the four seasons belong to a Rococo plat-de-ménage, which is (with 60 cm in high) impressive in size, being one of the largest known porcelain centerpieces of this type in the world. In short: The collection consists of rare salt cellars and centerpieces of top artistic value, manufactured in Polish and foreign factories since the early 16th century until the present time.

5) Prof. Dr. Martin Eberle´s articleSalt – “white goldin the table centre,” visualizes the important role of salt throughout all of times. Salt was needed to preserve food, highly appreciated to season meals and even used as a currency during Roman times. It could be extracted out of rocks or sea water, depending on local conditions and was obtained by different types of salt mining techniques, which are described in their historical context.

Prof. Eberle illustrates the expansion of the salt trade, salt trading routes, like the salt route of the German Hansa from Luneburg to Lübeck. Salt trade caused the development of tax systems and the foundation of salt offices. While the process of salt extraction and trade with salt was very complex and extremely expensive for the consumer and leading to several riots throughout Europe, some areas became incredibly wealthy through the salt trade.

The value and appreciation of salt was emphasized by precious salt vessels on the ducal table: Prof. Eberle explains the history, function and use of the French ship, called “nef” as a safe storage method for favorite condiments of the ruler and later for honored guests. An exceptionally beautiful example of a “nef,” outstanding through its artistry and shape, manufactured by Tobias Schaumann in Augsburg (1620) can be seen in the exhibition. The “nef” had a very special role at the court table culture, especially during the reign of Louis XIV of France (1638–1715) at the palace of Versailles, where it was part of great, sumptuous banquets and political events.

Personal cutlery sets, “cadenas” (rectangular cases with a lid), were used to keep cutlery and condiments in place. An impressive travel set with salt cellar in a case, made in Augsburg around 1690 by the goldsmiths Peter Neuss II and Tobias Hallaicher was recently purchased by the Cracow Saltworks Museum in Wieliczka

Silver-gilt salt cellars in various shapes and with diversified decorations, were placed on the ducal table. While individual vessels for salt were set only for high-ranked persons, the others had to share a single common salt cellar. Salt was sparsely used with the tip of the knive, until new mining techniques in the Zechstein deposits revolutionized the salt production at the end of the nineteenth century. The abundance of salt caused falling prices of the condiment. Inventions like the salt caster and grained salt brought radical changes to the dining culture and expensive salt cellars disappeared from our tables.

6) Dr. Christina Ntaflou´s essay about theCentral European drinking culture: drinking vessels 16th to 18th century” lights up the important ritual role of drinking and celebration throughout lifetime, especially the birth of a child, engagement, marriage, funeral as well as convivial drinking.

The author describes the European drinking culture (between the 16th and the late 18th centuries), it´s tradition, history and diversity. The development of different alcoholic drinks, like beer, wine, spirits and liquors as well as new drinking habits inspired a large variety of artworks. Decorative arts flourished, innovations and inventions of styles boomed, new dishes and alimentary products were created, commercial relations, science and luxury promoted.

Drinking was essential during both indoor and outdoor activities. It was a social and cultural act, entwined with rituals and religious or profane ceremonies. Political, diplomatic, religious and private celebrations offered opportunities to drink together, causing the need to invent appropriate vessels for special drinks and occasions. During courtly feasts, social or political status and rank of the host, was clearly recognizable: Valuable drinking vessels would be displayed on a buffet in multiple layers, depending on the user’s rank.

The exhibition shows artfully decorated silver and silver-gilt drinking, cooling and serving vessels (of the 16th – 18th century) used for alcoholic drinks and fashionable newcomer beverages like coffee, tea, and chocolate. The consumption of those caused new silver objects like creamers, sugar bowls, sugar casters, sugar nips, tablets as well as many wonderful coffee, chocolate and tea pots and services.

Ensemble, Zwei Französische Terrinen und eine Deutsche Terrine mit Untersatz

Numerous silver objects on display were made by goldsmiths of southern Germany, especially in Nuremberg and Augsburg which were famous for their goldsmithing since the Middle Ages. A large variety of elaborately decorated tankards, goblets, beakers, bowls, bottle and wine coolers will be exhibited. Many silver objects are very luxurious and most artistic works of craftmanship, some of them decorated with inset coins, often personalized with laborious coat of arms or initials of the former owners.

7) The article “To dine like the king. Table culture of the 18th century: European dining traditions and royal representation” from Daniela Caroline Herrmann, gives a short overview of the use of table silver in different cultures, throughout the times. Early European dining culture was mainly influenced by the holy bible, late Antique traditions and the Golden Bull of 1356.

While silver tableware was rarely used during the Middle Ages it was common in certain classes during early Renaissance. Table culture was refined at Renaissance courts, dining rooms were established, and table music began to play an important role throughout festive dinners.

King Louis XIV influenced the European table culture without compare: His legendary festivities, concerts, theatre or ballet performances and following gala dinners at the court of Versailles, were held with splendor and unique style. They set new standards for generations: France and French culture became “en vogue.”

During the 17th and 18th century, Europen nobility and courts dined “à la française” and copied French customs. They adopted meals like the “olla podrida” and merged them with their local table and food traditions. New dishes, deserts and exotic fruits, required different types of vessels like the “pots d’oilles”. New silverware, like confectionary forks, were invented.

Food was placed in a clear hierarchy onto the table: Expensive, rare culinary delights dominated the center of the table and were presented in elaborate newly developed silver vessels. Hierarchic use of precious metals, seating, backrest and cushioning of the seats at dinner, played an important role for the sovereign and his guests, visualizing their place at the table and in society.

Descriptions and pictures of feasts at European courts, reflect the different influences onto table culture since late Antiquity. In the 18th century publications of cookbooks and guides about table manners, made it possible for nobility and wealthy gentleman alike, to dine like a king.