Short notes on ceremonial platters and dishware
admin 4 May 2016

Ceremonial dishware, also known as “pomp”, made from precious materials as silver or even gold, derives from jugs and washbowls, objects often used in big Medieval and Renaissance feasts and banquets. Jugs and wash basins were usually used by the participants to clean their hands and fingers between meal courses, given the lack of personal use cutlery in those times.

Once the use of personal cutlery became the norm, the need of using such objects stops and dishware changes its purpose, thus becoming «an obvious display of richness» 1. The definition “pomp” derives from ad pompam vel ostentationem, standing for the symbol of richness and power of its owner. Vases, plates, jugs were frontally placed on special cupboards to exhibit the ostentation and splendor, prosperity and wealth of the owners.

It’s especially in the XVIIth and XVIIIth centuries that such precious artifacts would assume the maximum importance and popularity in all the European Courts. Baroque oval and round plates, with decorated brims and flower motives, often presenting mythological and allegorical illustrations or skillfully chiseled with emblems, crests, monograms and coats of arms, frequently exhibited during banquets and feasts. Objects thus that didn’t have a practical use or necessity, with ceremonial intent, created for their beauty and preciousness, capable, thanks to their sparkle, of generating admiration, wonder and amazement in the viewers.

Is for such reasons that these rare and precious artifacts are to consider, for their own origin and nature, amongst the most evocative and suggestive artworks in antique silvers arts of profane use.

1 Farida Simonetti, Apparati non da gentiluomini ma da gran re, in F. Broggero e F. Simonetti, Argenti genovesi da parata. Tra Cinque e Seicento, Umberto Allemandi, Torino 1991, p. 64.