Material and Medium: silver, gilt
Department: Decorative Art
Accession Number: 2004.628
This salad server was made by the London firm C & T Barker in 1804. The spoon is stamped with the company mark, 'C B' above 'T B'. The server has a long, curved shank similar to that of a soup ladle which widens at its end. This design is called Fiddle and is a traditional pattern for Sheffield flatware. The bowl of the server is very similar to that of a large serving spoon. However, the bowl has small tines cut into it. The handle has been engraved with the monogram of the owner 'GAP'.
The interior of the bowl bears traces of gilt. This is a thin coating of gold applied to the surface of an object. The layer of gold is very fragile and has gradually worn away as the server has been used. Silver and silver gilt were often used for the making of certain types of serving and eating implements. In the past these materials have been used to make objects such as fish slices, salad forks and fruit knives.
The use of silver flatware, cutlery and holloware at dinner would demonstrate the owner's wealth and social status to guests. The owner would have paid an additional fee to have their monogram engraved onto this salad server, increasing its social prestige. However, there is also a more practical reason for the choice. The acid in fruit reacts with steel. It causes it to discolour and also spoils food by giving it a metallic taste. At the time this object was made salads and fish dishes were often seasoned with lemon juice, which is very acidic. The use of silver, silver gilt or silver plate utensils would ensure that the delicate taste of a salad was not tainted by the serving utensils.
During the 1800s salads were often treated with caution as it was thought that they could cause stomach aches. Dressings of oil and vinegar were thought to counteract this effect. In the 1860s Mrs Beeton suggested using vinegar flavoured with celery seeds or cucumber, amongst other ingredients. Salad, cheese and biscuits, were often eaten as a separate course towards the end of a formal dinner. This practice continues today, though a cheese course often replaces dessert.
This object forms part of the Bill Brown Collection. Supported by The Art Fund, Heritage Lottery Fund and the Friends of Sheffield Galleries & Museums Trust.Display Location: