Offering yet another layer of perspective into the magnificent court life of the Habsburg dynasty is the Museum of Court Silver and Tableware or the “Silberkammer” housed in the Hofburg Kaiserappartements in Vienna. Beyond the glitter of the silverware and the pomp of the table settings, visitors will gain an insight into the royal banquets and the European manufacturers who provided all the items in the collection.
The collection is so extensive that it takes seven rooms to fully display all the wares. There’s a copper display where all the various cooking dishes, pans and cauldrons made of copper can be seen (copper kitchen utensils were only used by aristocratic families during the time). Another display showcases the imperial silver cutlery which were made by Mayerhofer and Klinkosch.
The set which are distinctively marked with the “fiddle-and-thread” pattern is still being used for state banquets until today. One of the most valuable collection is the Grand Vermeil service set which consists of about 4,500 fire-gilt silver pieces and weighs over 1,000 kilograms. The service was created by two renowned goldsmiths, Martin Guillaume-Biennais and Eugenio Brusa originally for Viceroy Beauharnais but ended up with Emperor Franz after Napoleon Bonaparte’s defeat. Another impressive item in the collection is the intricately-designed Milan centerpiece which spans a length of 30 metres.
While most of the items in the collection have been used for banquets and royal gatherings, there is one luxurious set that was only displayed. The 116-piece porcelain Minton Dessert Service won the top award in the Great Exhibition of London during the 19th century and was acquired by Queen Victoria as a gift for Emperor Franz Joseph. However, because the porcelain material was finely made, the fragile items were never used.