Picture Collections of Kaunas Burghers in the 17th and 18th Centuries: Themes and Functions (Summary)

Aistė Paliušytė (PDF)

In the current article, picture collections of Kaunas burghers and their functioning in the city’s community are analysed based on posthumous property inventories found in the registry books of the city of Kaunas of the 17th and 18th centuries. Information about the collections of Kaunas burghers from the period of the city’s economic thriving, the first half of the 17th century, is the most abundant. The owners of the pictures specified in the sources most often were representatives of the city’s ruling elite and merchants. Usually, the average size of a collection was 10–20 pictures. The largest known collection belonged to a bancher (scabinus), Friedrich Vongeren, who died in 1641. It was equal in size to large collections found in Vilnius and other cities of Central Europe, such as Krakow and Prague. Cheap religious engravings may spread among various strata of the city’s population. In general, images of the religious genre were predominant in the collections of Kaunas burghers; various portraits decorating burgher homes, among them images of rulers and noblemen, are also often mentioned in the sources. In terms of contents, the collections of Kaunas burghers are similar to other burghers and noblemen of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania (GDL) in the 17th and 18th centuries. The most distinct were the devotional and representational functions of the pictures decorating the homes of Kaunas burghers. Like other cities and towns of the GDL, the residents of Kaunas often followed the models of noblemen’s collections, their characteristic genres and themes and the motifs of power and rule typical of these collections. Thus, the community of Kaunas burghers contributed to the social and geographic spread of the most influential models of collecting typical of the aristocracy in the period under discussion, putting them into life on a smaller scale but according to their financial possibilities and needs and thus encouraging the processes of artistic development in the city.

Keywords: art collections, history of towns, Kaunas, religious image, portrait