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Cutlery set

Cutlery set

  • Place of origin:

    Germany (perhaps or Scandinavian, made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1650 - ca. 1700 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Steel and ivory with silver collars, in original leather case

  • Museum number:

    1549 to H-1856

  • Gallery location:

    Silver, Room 69, The Whiteley Galleries, case 4 []

This cutlery set containing one large knife and fork and thirteen smaller knives and forks, are carved with lion's heads. They are housed in a cylindrical leather case. Their style suggests they are likely to date from the second half of the seventeenth century, and were made in Germany, or perhaps Scandinavia.
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.

Physical description

Cylindrical leather cutlery case containing 13 knives and 13 forks including one larger carving knife and fork with pointed blades for spearing food, all carved with lions heads. The pupils of their eyes coloured with black pigment.

Place of Origin

Germany (perhaps or Scandinavian, made)


ca. 1650 - ca. 1700 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Steel and ivory with silver collars, in original leather case


Length: 31.5 cm of large knife (whole), Length: 8.5 cm of large knife (ivory alone), Length: 28.4 cm of large fork (whole), Length: 8.5 cm of large fork (ivory alone), Length: 23.2 cm of small knives (whole), Length: 6.5 cm of small knives (ivory alone), Length: 20 cm of small forks (whole), Length: 6.6 cm of small forks (ivory alone)

Object history note

Purchased in 1856 for £12 (vendor unrecorded).

Descriptive line

Cutlery set, ivory and steel in leather case, perhaps German or Scandinavian, ca. 1650-1700

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

'Cutlery in search of a collector', in: Apollo, Nov, 1949, ANON
Inventory of Art Objects Acquired in the Year 1856. In: Inventory of the Objects in the Art Division of the Museum at South Kensington, Arranged According to the Dates of their Acquisition. Vol I. London: Printed by George E. Eyre and William Spottiswoode for H.M.S.O., 1868, p. 33
p. 420
Trusted, Marjorie, Baroque & Later Ivories, Victoria & Albert Museum, London, 2013
Trusted, Marjorie, Baroque & Later Ivories, Victoria & Albert Museum, London, 2013, p. 420, cat. no. 429


Ivory; Steel; Leather

Subjects depicted

Lion's head


Household objects; Accessories; Eating


Metalwork Collection

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