Knife and fork
Date Made/Found: around 1690
Material and Medium: iron and steel, silver, ivory
Department: Decorative Art
Accession Number: Virtual2004.386-387
This carving knife and fork were made in England and date to around 1690. The fork has two tines and the knife has a long spear point blade. The blade and silver ferrules are unmarked so it is not possible to identify their makers.
The figurative hafts (handles) of this knife and fork are carved from ivory and are of an outstanding quality. The level of detail and craftsmanship employed in their manufacture is quite remarkable. Each of the figures is dressed in fashionable, formal and expensive dress of the late 1600s. The male figure is wearing a curled wig and a hat with a large brim. His gathered cravat and long cuffs are typical fashions of the time. The female figure is also wearing the correct formal dress, including a full skirt and bodice laced at the back.
The female figure is carrying a fan. These began to be imported from China into England around 1685, shortly before this knife and fork were made. They were transported in large numbers by the East India Company, who traded in tea and fashionable porcelain tea accessories. They became very fashionable accessories for women. From the 1700s, mass produced printed fans were made in England. These were very cheap, widely available and became incredibly popular.
It is possible that these objects may have been given as a wedding present. The tradition of giving sets of knives, later a knife and fork, was practiced from the 1300s. They would be presented to the bride to mark her new status. They often came with a decorative sheath personalised with the name of the owner.
These objects form part of the Bill Brown Collection. Supported by The Art Fund, Heritage Lottery Fund and the Friends of Sheffield Galleries & Museums Trust.