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Spoon - Spoon from the so-called 'Rouen Treasure' hoard

Spoon from the so-called 'Rouen Treasure' hoard

  • Object:

    Spoon

  • Place of origin:

    Rouen (made)
    France (made)

  • Date:

    1300-1400 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Silver, parecl-gilt

  • Museum number:

    110-1865

  • Gallery location:

    Medieval & Renaissance, Room 10a, The Françoise and Georges Selz Gallery, case 3

This spoon has an acorn-shaped finial. The hallmark - a lamb and flag - stands for the city of Rouen in northern France. It is part of the so-called Rouen treasure. This hoard is said to have been discovered when a house in Rouen was pulled down in 1864. Parts of this hoard are now dispersed in a number of European museums.

Physical description

A silver, parcel-gilt spoon, with deep, slightly pointed circular bowl attached to the stem by a gilt monster's head. The flat stem tapers to a gilt acorn-shaped finial.

Place of Origin

Rouen (made)
France (made)

Date

1300-1400 (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Silver, parecl-gilt

Marks and inscriptions

town mark in the bowl: an Agnus Dei (lamb of God) in a circle
The Agnus Dei is documented as the distinguishing element of Rouen marks from the second quarter of the 14th century [see Lightbown, French Silver, 1978].

Dimensions

Length: 16.8 cm, Width: 5 cm, Depth: 1.8 cm, Weight: 0.04 kg

Object history note

The spoon, a pair to 111-1865, forms part of the so-called 'Rouen Treasure' hoard, said to have been found in an iron box when pulling down a house in Rouen in 1864. Four silver bowls (106 to 109-1865), three further silver spoons (111 to 113-1865) and a gold écu of Philip VI of Valois (ruled 1328-50) from this hoard are also in the V&A. In 1961 Charles Oman suggested that they originally belonged to a larger hoard of silver, whose origin is unknown but was possibly near Gaillon in Normandy. This hoard also included pieces now found in the Musée de Cluny (traditionally thought to have been excavated in 1851 at the Château of Gaillon, once the country palace of the archbishops of Rouen), in the Basilewsky Collection now in the Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg and in the Musée du Louvre, Paris.

Historical significance: French domestic silver from the medieval period is extremely rare.

Historical context note

Spoons and knives were the most commonly used items of cutlery during this period and spoons survive in the greatest numbers. Diners still used their fingers for many dishes, but spoons were essential for eating soft, wet foods such as sauces and pottages (soup-like dishes). Only the wealthiest households would own silver spoons; less affluent homes might use spoons made from wood, bone or base metals. Inventories from noble residences record huge quantities of spoons. In a list drawn up in 1306 of plate and jewels owned by the dukes of Brittany, three of groups of 17, 54 and 58 silver spoons were noted alongside the huge quantities of other dining plate [see Lightbown, Secular Goldsmiths' Work in Medieval France, 1978, p. 34]. The focus for decoration was usually the finial or knop at the end of the stem, here representing an acorn. The majority of guests provided their own cutlery when eating away from home and many spoons bear marks of ownership.

Descriptive line

Silver spoon, France, 1350.

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

Lightbown, R.W., Secular Goldsmiths' Work in Medieval France: A History. London, The Society of Antiquaries of London, 1978, ill. (Reports of the Research Committee of the Society of Antiquaries of London, no. XXXVI).
Lightbown, R.W. French Silver. London: HMSO, 1978. cat. no. 10, p.17, ill. (Victoria and Albert Museum catalogue)
Oman, Charles. A mysterious hoard of early French silver, in Pantheon, xix, March 1961, pp. 82-87, ill.

Materials

Silver

Subjects depicted

Acorn

Categories

Access to Images; Images Online; Metalwork; Household objects; Tableware & cutlery

Collection

Metalwork Collection

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