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  • Place of origin:

    Netherlands (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1700 - ca. 1750 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Carved ivory and steel

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This knife is part of a pair of knife and fork (Mus. No. 667-1853). When first acquired the pair of objects was catalogued as Italian, but is more probably Netherlandish, and likely to date from the first half of the eighteenth 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

Ivory handle carved with Charity, shown as a female figure with three children. The pupils of the eyes are slightly hollowed out and painted black. Marked with a crowned device.

Place of Origin

Netherlands (made)


ca. 1700 - ca. 1750 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Carved ivory and steel


Length: 20.2 cm whole, Length: 6.6 cm ivory alone

Object history note

Bought in 1853 (vendor unrecorded). When first acquired it was catalogued as Italian; but more probably the pieces are Netherlandish, and are likely to date from the first half of the eighteenth century.

Descriptive line

Knife (from a pair of knife and fork), ivory and steel, Charity with three children, probably Netherlandish, ca. 1700-1750

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

Inventory of Art Objects Acquired in the Year 1853, 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, pp. 36 and 42
p. 430
Trusted, Marjorie, Baroque & Later Ivories, Victoria & Albert Museum, London, 2013
Trusted, Marjorie, Baroque & Later Ivories, Victoria & Albert Museum, London, 2013, p. 430, cat. no. 456


Ivory; Steel

Subjects depicted

Children; Female figure


Metalwork; Tableware & cutlery; Eating; Accessories; Household objects


Metalwork Collection

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