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Cutlery set

Cutlery set

  • Place of origin:

    Germany (made)

  • Date:

    late 15th century (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown (production)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Steel, with jasper handles and gilded silver mounts

  • Museum number:

    1165:1 to 6-1864

  • Gallery location:

    Medieval and Renaissance, room 62, case 11

Banquets were an important part of medieval life. They were elaborate occasions designed to show of the wealth and splendour of the host and to honour the guests. Carving meat at the banquet was an important part of the ritual. Sets like this one were often made from precious materials, as carving was a very public part of the feast. The appointed carver would use two knives, one to hold the meat and the other to keep it steady. This set also includes a skewer, a fork and a broad bladed knife for serving.

Physical description

Sheath of crimson velvet with silver gilt mounting containing 3 knives, a fork and a skewer.

One knife with a narrow tapering blade, the upper edge swaged; the second with a broader blade which widens gently and then tapers sharply to a point. The serving knife with a broad straight-sided blade and rounded end. All three blades are gripped in the silver-gilt ferrules of the jasper handles which are rectangular, which chamfered edges. The ferrules are engraved on both sides with Gothic foliage, and on one side of the broader carving knife, is a Gothic letter S. The fork has two short, curved tines, a long twisted neck and straight shoulders and, together with the steel , has a narrower jasper skewer handle, the ferrules engraved with rectangular rosettes. All four implements have silver-gilt trefoil caps engraved with Gothic foliage, pomegranates, thistles and flowers.

Masterpieces of Cutlery and the Art of Eating, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 1979, p.3

Place of Origin

Germany (made)

Date

late 15th century (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown (production)

Materials and Techniques

Steel, with jasper handles and gilded silver mounts

Marks and inscriptions

[knife (culinary tool)] a heart on a shield
[knife (culinary tool)] A heart on a shield inlaid with brass
[knife (culinary tool)] A heart on a shield

Dimensions

[Case] Length: 35 cm, Width: 6.3 cm, Depth: 5.4 cm, Weight: 0.18 kg
[Skewer] Length: 31.1 cm, Width: 3.4 cm, Depth: 1.2 cm, Weight: 0.1 kg
[Fork] Length: 32.9 cm, Width: 3.4 cm, Depth: 1.3 cm, Weight: 0.08 kg
[knife (culinary tool)] Length: 31.2 cm, Width: 4.7 cm, Depth: 1.5 cm, Weight: 0.12 kg
[knife (culinary tool)] Length: 31.2 cm, Width: 4.2 cm, Depth: 1.4 cm, Weight: 0.12 kg
[knife (culinary tool)] Length: 38 cm, Width: 5.2 cm, Depth: 1.7 cm, Weight: 0.22 kg

Object history note

Bought for £21 from Milani Frankfurt

Historical significance: The art of carving had subtle differences throughout Europe. According to Vincenzo Cervio's treatise on carving, Il Trinciante, in 1581 meat was carved in Germany on a plate or trencher using long handled forks with short tines and knives with rounded ends and long handles. This set seems to be indicative of the German tradition.

Historical context note

Banquets were an important part of medieval life. They were elaborate occasions designed to show of the wealth and splendour of the host and to honour the guests. Carving meat at the banquet was an important part of the ritual. Sets like this one were often made from precious materials, as carving was a very public part of the feast. The appointed carver would use two knives, one to hold the meat and the other to keep it steady. This set also includes a skewer, a fork and a broad bladed knife for serving. Appointed carvers were often very important nobles at the feast. At the coronation of Anne Boleyn for example, the Earl of Sussex was appointed carver.

Descriptive line

jasper handles with silver gilt mounts, sheath of crimson velvet

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

Masterpieces of Cutlery and the Art of Eating, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 1979, pp.3
Wheeler, Jo Renaissance secrets, recipes and formulas . London: V&A, 2009, p

Exhibition History

Masterpieces of Cutlery and the Art of Eating (V&A 01/01/1979-31/12/1979)

Labels and date

CARVING SET
Comprising two knives, serving knife, fork and steel in sheath.
Handles of jasper mounted in engraved silver-gilt
German; late 15th century

Materials

Steel; Silver-gilt; Jasper

Categories

Eating; Metalwork

Collection code

MET

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