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Fork handle

Fork handle

  • Place of origin:

    Netherlands (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1680 - ca. 1720 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Carved ivory

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This ivory handle of a knife or fork is formed of a nude female figure, probably the goddess Ceres, standingt against a tree-trunk. The style of the carving suggests the piece is Netherlandish and dates from the late seventeenth century.
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

The fork or knife handle is carved with a female nude allegorical figure, probably the goddess Ceres, standing against a tree-trunk and flowers, holding a sheaf of corn.

Place of Origin

Netherlands (made)


ca. 1680 - ca. 1720 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Carved ivory


Length: 7.5 cm

Object history note

Bought in 1859 (from the Soulages Collection).

Descriptive line

Handle of fork or knife, carved ivory, nude female figure, Netherlands, ca. 1680-1720

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

Inventory of Art Objects Acquired in the Year 1860. 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. 32
Longhurst, Margaret H. Catalogue of Carvings in Ivory. Part II. London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 1929, p. 94
p. 429
Trusted, Marjorie, Baroque & Later Ivories, Victoria & Albert Museum, London, 2013
Trusted, Marjorie, Baroque & Later Ivories, Victoria & Albert Museum, London, 2013, p. 429, cat. no. 454





Subjects depicted

Goddess; Tree-trunk; Flowers; Nude female figure


Eating; Household objects; Sculpture; Tableware & cutlery


Sculpture Collection

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