Pair of Wedding Knives thumbnail 1
Pair of Wedding Knives thumbnail 2
+40
images
Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Bags: Inside Out, Room 40

Pair of Wedding Knives

1600-1625 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

Object Type
In the 17th century cutlery used at table was often designed to be portable, since knives for eating were also used for other purposes and carried on the person. This presentation set of two knives in a carrying sheath was probably given as a wedding gift to a bride. Knives were used for cutting food and carrying it to the mouth, with the fingers. The use of forks became widespread in England only after 1660, following the example set by Charles II (ruled 1660-1685). The formal place setting of knife, fork and spoon was not established in England until about 1700.

Materials & Making
The hafts (handles) of the knives have been set with pieces of amber. Before the 18th century most knife hafts were made of organic materials, including ivory, bone and shell. Amber (fossilised resin) was a rare and precious material, found mainly on the Baltic coast of Prussia and traded from Germany. It was traditionally believed to be an effective amulet against disease.

Manufacture
Cutlery manufacture involved a number of specialists: the blademaker, grinder, hafter (the person who made the handle), sheather (the maker of the sheath in which the knife was carried) and the furbisher or cutler, who assembled the parts, forging the blade, and sold the finished items. The London Cutlers Company, set up in 1415, regulated the trade until the 18th century. It obliged cutlers to mark their wares with their personal devices.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Parts
This object consists of 3 parts.

  • Knife-Case
  • Knife (Culinary Tool)
  • Knife (Culinary Tool)
Materials and Techniques
Steel, gold, silver, amber, linen, leather, silk, silk thread, silver-gilt threads; damascened, hand sewn, hand embroidered
Brief Description
Pair of steel knives with the handles damascened in gold and silver, made by John Jencks, with a linen case embroidered in metal threads, England, 1600-1625
Physical Description
Pair of steel knives with the handles damascened in gold and silver and set with amber. The knives have a thistle mark. The leather case is covered with linen, embroidered in silk and silver-gilt threads in tent and double-plait stitches. The embroidery design includes a bird, rose, pansy, grapes and vine leaf. The case has a hanging string of braided blue silk and silver thread.
Dimensions
  • Depth: 2.5cm
Dimensions checked: Measured; 15/06/2000 by KB, Height: 22.2 including tassle, 50 with straps, extended. Width: 7 cm including tassle see diagram
Gallery Label
  • British Galleries: Guests were generally expected to take their own knives to dinners or feasts. Cutlery was also a traditional gift at many special occasions. The custom of giving brides a pair of decorated knives had started in the Middle Ages and continued into the 18th century. Wedding knives often came in pretty embroidered cases and the bride would hang them from her waist.(27/03/2003)
  • In 17th century England, people frequently travelled with a personal set of cutlery. Before the introduction of the fork, the set comprised a pair of knives: one to spear and one to cut. This wedding-knife set would be suspended from a woman’s waist along with a sweet purse, used to carry scented herbs, and pincushion. For other cultures, hand-carved spoons were considered highly personal and were often carried in a woven-fibre pouch. This highly decorated example from the North Nguni people of South Africa is believed to have been worn around the neck [Impontshi (spoon bag) The David & Janie Lightfoot African Art Collection]. V&A, Room 40, Bags: Inside Out. (12/2020)
Credit line
Bequeathed by Sir Frederick Richmond, Bt
Object history
The knives were made in England by John or Joseph Jencks. The embroidery design is identical to that on a purse and pincushion, T.52-1954, and all three may have been made as a set. Bequeathed by Sir Frederick Richmond, Bart, in 1954, along with a collection of 17th century embroidery and accessories.
Subjects depicted
Summary
Object Type
In the 17th century cutlery used at table was often designed to be portable, since knives for eating were also used for other purposes and carried on the person. This presentation set of two knives in a carrying sheath was probably given as a wedding gift to a bride. Knives were used for cutting food and carrying it to the mouth, with the fingers. The use of forks became widespread in England only after 1660, following the example set by Charles II (ruled 1660-1685). The formal place setting of knife, fork and spoon was not established in England until about 1700.

Materials & Making
The hafts (handles) of the knives have been set with pieces of amber. Before the 18th century most knife hafts were made of organic materials, including ivory, bone and shell. Amber (fossilised resin) was a rare and precious material, found mainly on the Baltic coast of Prussia and traded from Germany. It was traditionally believed to be an effective amulet against disease.

Manufacture
Cutlery manufacture involved a number of specialists: the blademaker, grinder, hafter (the person who made the handle), sheather (the maker of the sheath in which the knife was carried) and the furbisher or cutler, who assembled the parts, forging the blade, and sold the finished items. The London Cutlers Company, set up in 1415, regulated the trade until the 18th century. It obliged cutlers to mark their wares with their personal devices.
Bibliographic Reference
Thornton, Claire, 'Purse, Pincushion and Knife Case', in North, Susan and Jenny Tiramani, eds, Seventeenth-Century Women’s Dress Patterns, vol.2, London: V&A Publishing, 2012, pp.136-143
Collection
Accession Number
T.55 to B-1954

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record createdMarch 27, 2003
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