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Miniature whistle pendant

Miniature whistle pendant

  • Place of origin:

    England (Probably, made)

  • Date:

    1525 - 1530 (made)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Gold, partly engraved in relief

  • Credit Line:

    Lent anonymously

  • Museum number:

    LOAN:MET ANON.1-1984

  • Gallery location:

    British Galleries, Room 58, case 5

Object Type
This pistol-shaped whistle is engraved in relief with scrolling foliage. Its stock, which supports the barrel, contains cosmetic implements. The pendant is a rare survivor of the gold devices that were sewn in great profusion on to the masque costumes of Henry VIII (ruled 1509-1547). In September 1510, for instance, the goldsmith Robert Amadas was paid œ266 for 'wreaths, hearts and roses of fine gold'; many of these were 'lost off the King's back', stolen or 'given away at his pleasure'.

By family tradition, this trinket was Henry VIII's first gift to Anne Boleyn (born bout 1501, died 1536), the earliest of many tokens of love. A later example of jewels exchanged between them is detailed in their letters. During their courtship, Henry wrote to Anne that 'seeing I cannot be present in person with you I send you the nearest thing to that possible, that is, my picture set in bracelets, with the whole device, which you know already, wishing myself in their place when it shall please you.' In reply, Anne sent a jewel symbolic of her own difficult situation, representing a ship tossed about on a stormy sea with a lonely damsel on board.

Ownership & Use
The pendant was a luxury trifle of a type that had a place only in court or wealthy circles, but it also had its functions. As well as being a whistle, it contains a toothpick with a sickle-shaped end, a straight toothpick and an ear-spoon for removing wax.

Physical description

Gold pendant in the form of a pistol, engraved in relief with scrolling foliage on the stock. The recessed ground of the engraving may once have been filled with a contrasting material such as black enamel or wax. The stock contains three cosmetic instruments, one curved (the shape often taken by a toothpick), one pointed (also for teeth or nails?) and one in the form of a small spoon (for ear wax). The butt of the pistol is decorated and around it runs a snake.

Place of Origin

England (Probably, made)


1525 - 1530 (made)

Materials and Techniques

Gold, partly engraved in relief


Height: 2.7 cm est. open, tools extended; 2 closed, Width: 4.7 cm est. open, tools extended; 3 closed, Depth: 1 cm

Object history note

Probably made in England

Descriptive line

Gold whistle pendant in the form of a pistol with cosmetic tools in the barrel. Probably England, about 1520

Labels and date

British Galleries:
This whistle pendant is in the shape of a pistol with personal cosmetic tools in the stock. Objects like these were attached to Henry VIII's costume at court festivities, for distribution as presents. Today's equivalent would be found in the most expensive Christmas crackrs. Tradition claims that this was the first of the king's many gifts to Anne Boleyn (about 1501-1536), who became his second wife in 1533. [27/03/2003]




Engraving (incising)


Metalwork Collection

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