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Spoon and fork

Apparently silver-gilt

Origin: Probably Italian

Date: Late 16th century or 19th century

15.8 cm length of spoon; 16 cm length of fork

Provenance: Soulages collection; John Webb

Bequeathed by C.D.E. Fortnum, 1899; WA1899.CDEF.V425

T. Schroder (2009), no. 576

The design of these pieces clearly dates from the mid-sixteenth century and is closely related to a drawing after Franceso Salviati (1510-1563) in the Victoria and Albert Museum. However, the date of their manufacture is less certain. The Soulages collection was one of the most celebrated collections of decorative art in the nineteenth century. Formed by French lawyer, Jules Soulages (d.1857), it included 700 pieces, mostly of the Renaissance period, collected between 1830 and 1840.

Information derived from T. Schroder, British and Continental Gold and Silver in the Ashmolean (2009)

Fork: The fork first arrived in Italy from Byzantium in the eleventh century and was in regular use there by the fifteenth century. It was a while before the fork was accepted elsewhere in Europe. In 1518, Martin Luther amusingly quipped, ‘God preserve me from the little forks’! It finally came into common use in the seventeenth century, where it developed from the two-pronged type to one of three or four prongs, demonstrating its transition from carving or serving fork to one used for eating.

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