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3/1 Gaza protest criticises politicians

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Silver in the Hermitage

28 April 2006 – In the Amsterdam Hermitage, a collection of silver objects is on display, that were originally collected by the Russian czars. Some objects are a bit boring, but others are spectacular.

The objects have been made of filigree. This is produced by making long threads out of silver – just one gram of silver suffices to make hundreds of meters of thread – which are then woven into a material that looks a bit like lace. The colour can be changed by adding other metals to the silver.

The objects were made in the 17th and 18th centuries in China, India and Batavia. Sometimes they were ordered by Europeans, who sometimes also provided the design.

The Hermitage in Saint-Petersburg has a large collection of filigree, originally collected by Peter the Great and Catherine the Great. Recently, the collection was studied and restored. It is now for the first time on display outside of Russia.

It must be said that the objects made of just filigree can be a bit boring. However, objects in which other materials have been used, such as gold and especially enamel, can be spectacular.

Examples are the fan and basket by the Chinese master Cutshing, as well as the Chinese jugs and wine cups. Unfortunately, there is no good photo of these cups in the catalogue.

At the exhibition, a central place has been accorded to two of Catherine the Great’s toilet sets. Such toilet sets, which were used both by men and women, consisted of a mirror, boxes and additional objects.

Sitting in front of the mirror, the owners would grant audience to their closest companions, while completing their morning toilet and having breakfast. The Orthodox church, which prohibited the use of mirrors, could not prevent the spread of toilet sets.

Information about the exhibition can be found here. Photos: State Museum The Hermitage, Saint Petersburg. Above: Basket, Batavia or China, first half 18th century, silver, filigree, enamel, rubies. Below: Vase with two handles in the form of dragons, China, late 17th - early 18th century, silver, filigree, enamel, gilt.

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