Knife

1607 (dated)
Knife thumbnail 1
Knife thumbnail 2
+1
images
Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Metalware, Room 116, The Belinda Gentle Gallery
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

The knives are from a set of fourteen with carved ivory handles representing the kings and queens of England, from Henry I to James I. The inscriptions on the blades name each monarch depicted. This one depicts King Edward III.
Knives have been used since prehistoric times, but the history of knives, forks and spoons for eating in Europe probably commenced in the fourteenth century, and their use became accepted by the sixteenth century. Until the late seventeenth century it seems to have been common practice for people to carry their own cutlery, often in a leather case.
Ebony, ivory, fish skin, tortoiseshell, amber, bone, horn and shell were all popular for decorating cutlery. Around 1730 ceramic handles were introduced to Europe from China. Although cutlers were required by their guilds to be able to make a complete knife, handles of carved ivory, silver, bronze and glass were usually imported or made by specialist craftsmen.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Steel, carved ivory and damascened gold
Brief Description
Knife (from a set of fourteen), ivory and steel with damascened gold, handles representing kings and queens of England, from Henry I to James I, mark of Arnold Smyth (possibly), Britain (London), dated 1607
Physical Description
Knife, steel and the handle of ivory, carved with a portrait figure of Edward III, King of England, the neck of the blade damascened with gold. The blades are etched with the name of the sovereign. Cutler's mark: a dagger for the London Cutlers' Company. Maker's mark: a crowned diamond, possibly for Arnold Smyth. The handles are inset with semi-precious stones and glass paste.
Dimensions
  • Whole length: 29cm
  • Ivory alone length: 10.5cm
Marks and Inscriptions
  • Mark: a dagger for the London Cutlers' Company (on blade)
  • Mark: a crowned diamond (Possibly for Arnold Smyth; on blade)
Object history
Bought in 1869 from Durlacher , London. On acquisition reports on these knives [in the Art Referees' Report, Vol 1 (1868-March, 1869), 22903 ff. and J.C. Robinson's Reports, June 1866-September 1867, 12991 ff.] stated that they had been "recently forwarded from Russia" and [ibid Vol. 6 (September 1867-June 1868), 2389 ff.] that the knives came from the collection of Countess Kucheleff in St. Petersburg (Museum records). This has not been verified.

Angus Patterson has plausibly suggested that the knives may originally have formed a set of 24 knives, since some monarchs are missing, and this larger number is more usual for a set of cutlery.

Subject depicted
Summary
The knives are from a set of fourteen with carved ivory handles representing the kings and queens of England, from Henry I to James I. The inscriptions on the blades name each monarch depicted. This one depicts King Edward III.

Knives have been used since prehistoric times, but the history of knives, forks and spoons for eating in Europe probably commenced in the fourteenth century, and their use became accepted by the sixteenth century. Until the late seventeenth century it seems to have been common practice for people to carry their own cutlery, often in a leather case.

Ebony, ivory, fish skin, tortoiseshell, amber, bone, horn and shell were all popular for decorating cutlery. Around 1730 ceramic handles were introduced to Europe from China. Although cutlers were required by their guilds to be able to make a complete knife, handles of carved ivory, silver, bronze and glass were usually imported or made by specialist craftsmen.

Associated Objects
Bibliographic References
  • List of Objects in the Art Division, South Kensington Museum, Acquired during the Year 1969, Arranged According to the Dates of Acquisition. In: Inventory of Art Objects, South Kensington Museum 1868-1870, London: Printed by George E. Eyre and William Spottiswoode, for Her Majesty's Stationery Office, 1970, pp. 34-35
  • Trusted, Marjorie, Baroque & Later Ivories, Victoria & Albert Museum, London, 2013p. 435
  • Trusted, Marjorie, Baroque & Later Ivories, Victoria & Albert Museum, London, 2013, p. 435, cat. no. 469
Collection
Accession Number
456-1869

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record createdSeptember 10, 2004
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