Between tradition and change: Classicist liturgical vessels in Lithuania (Summary)

Dalia Vasiliūnienė (PDF)

The paper provides a brief overview of the entirety of the essential liturgical vessels from the Lithuanian Classicist era, i.e. vessels created from 1780s to 1830s: chalices, cruets, ciboria and monstrances. Their changes are analysed in the context of the Enlightenment Age, partitions of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and the related goldsmithery crisis. The paper identifies the stylistic characteristics of the Classicist vessels and discusses the quality of craftsmanship as well as the conservatism and innovations in shapes. It also notes their links to items from other countries. It presents the typical, most common shapes of vessels as well as examples of unique compositions. The works of religious goldsmithery are usually unsigned and, therefore, they are usually compared to each other to find out if they might have been made by the same author.

The shape of chalices remained almost the same during the period in question with most vessels retaining the baroque shape typical for the 18th century. An exceptional example is a chalice given to the Cathedral in 1798 that features a composition characteristic of the vessels of Western Europe. Similarly, ciboria had little variation; however, there were a few unique items among them: a ciborium from Vabalninkas church following Ancient Greek examples or a ciborium from Meškuičiai with a unique composition. Meanwhile cruets underwent a significant change with the ovaloid ones with a smooth, even surface becoming the most popular. The most interesting group of the liturgical vessels in question is monstrances. In them, attachment to the traditions of the past era is also noticeable because they all are a variation of the monstrance type with a massive sunburst that developed during the Baroque period. Even though the Lithuanian monstrances adopted some of the new décor elements from the European Classicist vessels (such as laurel wreaths with ribbons wrapped around them, garlands, the Lamb of the Apocalypse), their arsenal of decorations and symbols was much more limited and they rarely used figurative elements. One of the earliest monstrances is dated to 1788 and is from Šventežeris church. It is used as a comparison for monstrances of Pavilnys, Nemenčinė, Meškuičiai and other churches that have similar shape and decorations and could possibly have been made by the same author. The paper identifies two monstrances of an unknown Vilnius master in Jieznas and Vilnius Archcathedral. It publishes the monstrance of Vyžuonai church made by Vilnius goldsmith Jacob Gustaw Hahn who is also thought to be the author of the monstrance of Šiluva. Finally, the paper analyses the problem of the authorship of several vessels (monstrances, ciboria and a reliquary) from Laukuva and Viekšniai.

Keywords: Classicism, goldsmithery, liturgical vessels