Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
British Galleries, Room 125b

Sardine Fork

1875-1900 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

Object Type
The complicated dining etiquette of the period encouraged the development of specific utensils for eating and serving particular foods. Sardine forks were a Victorian refinement for serving the expensive and popular tinned fish.

Dining Etiquette
Dining etiquette formed an important part of the Victorian code of polite society. The Manners and Tone of Good Society, first published in 1879, outlined the correct conduct of the dinner party but focused on the complicated and changing use of cutlery. With a few exceptions (such as for eating bread and some fruit) touching food with the fingers was frowned upon. Diners were presented with an alarming and growing range of specialist utensils for eating particular foods. It was important to be able to recognise items such as lobster picks, sardine forks and grape scissors, and to know how to use them correctly.

Design & Designing
The engraved fish incorporated into the design suggests the fork's function. However, the broad, five-pronged shape of the fork and the short handle are very similar to the form of the bread fork, and it is possible that forks with a less specific decoration could have been used to serve bread.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Electroplated nickel silver, with celluloid handle
Brief Description
Sardine fork, Electroplated nickel silver, with plastic (celluloid) handle, unmarked; 1870-1890.
Dimensions
  • Length: 17cm
  • Maximum width: 4.2cm
  • Depth: 1.5cm
Gallery Label
British Galleries: Tinned food was a novelty for the Victorians and sardines were served for breakfast, at high tea or as hors d'oeuvres at dinner. Specialist serving vessels or sardine boxes in metal and ceramics as well as sardine tongs and forks were developed to serve and eat the expensive tinned fish with greater elegance.(27/03/2003)
Object history
Made in England
Historical context
The complicated dining etiquette of the period encouraged the development of specific utensils for eating and serving particular foods. Sardine forks were a Victorian refinement for serving the expensive and popular tinned fish.





Dining Etiquette


Dining etiquette formed an important part of the Victorian code of polite society. The Manners and Tone of Good Society, first published in 1879, outlined the correct conduct of the dinner party but focused on the complicated and changing use of cutlery. With a few exceptions (such as for eating bread and some fruit) touching food with the fingers was frowned upon. Diners were presented with an alarming and growing range of specialist utensils for eating particular foods. It was important to be able to recognise items such as lobster picks, sardine forks and grape scissors, and to know how to use them correctly.





Design & Designing


The engraved fish incorporated into the design suggests the fork's function. However, the broad, five-pronged shape of the fork and the short handle are very similar to the form of the bread fork, and it is possible that forks with a less specific decoration could have been used to serve bread.
Summary
Object Type
The complicated dining etiquette of the period encouraged the development of specific utensils for eating and serving particular foods. Sardine forks were a Victorian refinement for serving the expensive and popular tinned fish.

Dining Etiquette
Dining etiquette formed an important part of the Victorian code of polite society. The Manners and Tone of Good Society, first published in 1879, outlined the correct conduct of the dinner party but focused on the complicated and changing use of cutlery. With a few exceptions (such as for eating bread and some fruit) touching food with the fingers was frowned upon. Diners were presented with an alarming and growing range of specialist utensils for eating particular foods. It was important to be able to recognise items such as lobster picks, sardine forks and grape scissors, and to know how to use them correctly.

Design & Designing
The engraved fish incorporated into the design suggests the fork's function. However, the broad, five-pronged shape of the fork and the short handle are very similar to the form of the bread fork, and it is possible that forks with a less specific decoration could have been used to serve bread.
Collection
Accession Number
M.32-2000

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record createdSeptember 22, 2000
Record URL