- Place of origin:
- Materials and Techniques:
- Museum number:
- Gallery location:
Medieval & Renaissance, Room 62, The Foyle Foundation Gallery, case 11
Spoons depicting the 12 apostles (messengers of Christ) were popular throughout the 16th century. Individual apostle spoons were sometimes given as Christening gifts but intended for use. Groups depicting all 12 apostles were more likely to be owned by wealthier members of society (noblemen were more likely to have several dozen spoons in various shapes; a tradesman would have about six to 12). Few complete sets have survived. During the Reformation many religious images were destroyed, and silver was melted down and re-used.
This spoon depicts St James the Great, one of the original 12 apostles whom Jesus sent to preach his gospel to the world. His brother was St John the Evangelist who appears on another apostle spoon in the Museum’s collection (M.71-1921). St James is often shown with a pilgrim’s staff and wallet. Despite having been killed in Jerusalem in 44, St James became associated in medieval legend with Compostela in Spain, which became a centre for pilgrimage through association with the saint.
Silver apostle spoon with a gilded finial in the form of a figure of St. James the Great. The large fig-shaped bowl of the spoon has pricked initials (I.K and R.M) on the back. The six-sided stem ends in a moulded capital that serves as a pedestal for the figure of St. James. He holds a staff with a large wallet attached. His sloping nimbus has a petal design on the underside and a dove on the upper side. This object has no hallmarks.
Place of Origin
Materials and Techniques
Marks and inscriptions
Ownership marks, pricked initials on the back of the bowl. These probably date from the seventeenth century.
Length: 18.4 cm, Width: 5.5 cm, Depth: 2.5 cm, Weight: 0.06 kg
Object history note
Purchased from H.D Ellis from the Ellis Collection.
Historical context note
Spoons depicting the twelve apostles (messengers of Christ) were popular throughout the sixteenth century. Individual apostle spoons were sometimes given as Christening presents but intended for use. Groups depicting all twelve apostles were more likely to be owned by wealthier members of society (noblemen were more likely to have several dozen spoons in various shapes, a tradesman would have about six to twelve ). Few complete sets have survived. During the Reformation many religious images were destroyed, and silver was melted down and re-used.
Silver Spoon with gilded finial in the form of St. James the Great, England, second half 15th century
Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)
The Burlington Magazine XXIII, 1913, p.283
How, Commander G.E.P, English and Scottish Silver Spoons: Medieval to Late Stuart and Pre-Elizabethan Hall-Marks on English Plate vol.II, Curwen Press, Plaistow,1953, p.286
Peter Brown, ed. British Cutlery: An Illustrated History of Design, Evolution and Use York Civic Trust/Philip Wilson Publishers Ltd., 2001 ISBN. 085667544X
Labels and date
Spoons were used to dip into communal dishes. Usually guests brought their own, but sometimes the host would provide a set. These two spoons are apostle spoons, so called because they are decorated with the figures of Jesus's twelve followers. They were often sold in sets of twelve (or thirteen, to include Christ himself).
Silver spoons were precious items, treaured as heirlooms and presented as gifts.
With finial figure of St James the Great
Partially gilded silver
Initials 'IK RM' engraved on the back
Museum no. M.70-1921
With finial figure of St John the Evangelist
Partially gilded silver
London hallmark and maker’s mark; initials ‘IG’ engraved on the back
Museum no. M.71-1921 
This object has no hallmarks.
Gilded; Cast; Hammered
Doves; Staffs; Wallets
Metalwork; Christianity; Religion; Tableware & cutlery; Children & Childhood