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Rummer as a Symbol for Political and Economic Status

by Yuejia Zhang

Jan or John Lohm or Lund. Sweden, c.1710. Rummer, silver, gilt on inside. Ackland Art Museum, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

This rummer was made in Sweden c. 1710, during the Great Northern War (1700–1721) against a combined force of Northern European countries. Before that time, Sweden had held great power in northern Europe; however, its power waned due to its agrarian-based economy ( Swedish royal families and the aristocracy of the time had a notable preference for silver utensils as a way to showcase their wealth and status during the war ( This rummer perhaps would have been one such utensil on display in a Swedish house. This shift in perception towards silver utensils provided the impetus for the development of Swedish silverware craftsmanship in the 1700s.

Silver is one of the precious metals which function directly as a form of currency. The intrinsic monetary value of silver endows the silver utensils with value beyond their utilitarian purpose. As could be seen at the neck of this rummer, there are tiny holes where the bulged decorations are placed. Although rummers are originally intended to be drinking wares, these openings indicate that the purpose of this rummer is not for holding liquids (otherwise, the liquids will spill out). Presumably, its sole purpose was to serve as a symbol of authority and economic affluence.

Moreover, the size of this rummer, in addition to the material, may signpost the superior status of the owner. The rummer has a generous volume compared to other drinking utensils, which conveys the idea of excessive consumption and ample supply despite the lack of resources faced by the Swedish economy at the time.

The material and size of this rummer showcase the bubble of opulent indulgence and social standing within the backdrop of a struggling Swedish economy. It serves as the symbolic artifact that perpetuates the illusion of Swedish affluence and power.

Works Cited

History of sweden – more than vikings: Official Site of Sweden.

How Swedish silver craftsmanship innovates and develops?


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