From March 27 to August 23, 2020, Museum Prinsenhof Delft presents a comprehensive overview of Delft silverware from the 17th and 18th centuries. Under the title Silver. Masterpieces by Delft silversmiths 1590-1800, 80 masterpieces from the heyday of Delft silversmithing can be seen: showpieces such as nautilus cups, drinking bowls and special table pieces from the 17th century, but also spectacle pieces for the tea and table ceremony and valuable toilet sets from the 18th century. Highlights from the prominent own silver collection are supplemented with special loans from home and abroad. With this, for the first time in 50 years, a good overview of Delft silver can be admired in the city that belonged to the top of the Low Countries in the field of silver production in the early 17th century. The contemporary design of interior architects Evelyne Merkx and Abbie Steinhauser immerses the visitor in a spectacle of silver.
In 1572 Willem van Oranje fled to Delft during the Revolt. This had major consequences for the city. A number of prominent silversmiths from Antwerp came to Delft in his wake, because where the court was, there were the assignments. The tightly organized Delft silver guild could now start producing at the highest level. Absolute masterpieces were made in Delft from the end of the 16th century up to and including the mid-17th century. Great masters such as father and son Nicolaes and Adriaen de Grebber made fantastic drinking bowls, nautilus cups and table pieces for the elite. These silver masterpieces were the center of great reception. In the 18th century, silversmiths such as Cornelis van Dijck and Dirk van de Goorberg served the Delft beau monde with top quality silver in the latest European fashion. The wine coolers, candlesticks, terrines, bread baskets and also the cutlery and service cutlery made sure that their guests were literally received beautifully. A representative overview of these triumphs of the Delft silversmiths is now shown for the first time since 1957 in Museum Prinsenhof Delft. The objects come from, among others, the Rijksmuseum, the Ashmolean Museum (Oxford), the Boston Museum Fine Arts and prominent private collections.
Social function is central
Silver marks the major events in life, explains social traffic and connects generations with each other, even today. The social function of the objects displayed is therefore central to the exhibition. Why were these pieces made? Why did the Dutch bourgeoisie have so much money left over for these spectacle pieces? What did they want to illustrate with it and how did that lead to the unprecedented flourishing of the craft in Delft? The exhibition offers answers to all these questions on the basis of four themes: showing off, receiving, connecting and celebrating. Extensive attention is also paid to the manufacturing process and the quality of a number of top pieces. Among other things, the art of ‘floating’ is discussed and at the same time the artistry of the object in question is highlighted. Finally, in a short film, owners of silver talk about the important role these silver pieces play in their families. Visitors are thus challenged to think about the (emotional) value of silver.
During the duration of the exhibition, lectures, (entry) tours and a silver polishing day are planned. Furthermore, Museum Prinsenhof Delft is organizing an open house for residents of Delft in which the museum, inspired by receptions in the 17th and 18th centuries, enters into a conversation with the residents. The complete program can be read from February 2020 on www.prinsenhof-delft.nl.
About Museum Prinsenhof Delft
The permanent presentation at Museum Prinsenhof Delft is based on three themes that together form the foundation of the museum: Willem van Oranje, Delft Blue and Delft Masters. The museum shows how these themes are interconnected and how they jointly determine the face of the Netherlands. The museum tells a different facet of this story on the basis of exhibitions and versatile programming. The Delft silver exhibition is in line with the Delft Masters theme.