Renaissance Silver & Enamel Travelling Cutlery Set Bacchanalian Theme
This is a complete set of Renaissance traveling cutlery, of a type carried in a leather case for banquets. This is a very rare set, all exquisitely crafted by a goldsmith, wrought, enameled and gilded. The group of three pieces, a fork, spoon, and knife, each finely decorated with classical head and barley-twisted handles. The head of the spoon appears to be that of Bacchus (wearing a wreath of grapes and vine leaves), the other two busts are female, likely Ariadne consort to Bacchus, and possibly Venus (goddess of Love and Beauty). The heads are heavily decorated, chased, engraved and enameled in the round (Ronde-bosse). The 'twisted' handles again are enameled, a single line of alternating black and blue. The two-pronged fork and knife blade are wrought from the finest steel, a highly skilled and costly process to produce, still very sharp.
During the 16th century, the rise of the fork began in France from Italy, after Catherine de Medici married King Henry II. By the mid 16th century, etiquette at the royal court had firmly established the use of the two-pronged fork - to be used at meals and banquets by the nobility. This cutlery set would have been a highly sophisticated designer piece, for an elite noblewoman, especially suited for one at the royal French Court of Catherine de Medici (home to a young Mary Queen of Scots).
This group exudes great age, the solder seems to have perished at the joints with time. It has chips to the enamel and some enamel loss. Originally kept in a leather case for much of its life (hence, the excellent condition of the steel). It is clearly not a later 19th century Revival piece, but an original of the 16th century. A very rare and collectible piece of Renaissance goldsmiths art, worthy of restoration or museum display.
OBJECT: Cutlery Set
DATE: c. 1560 - 1620 A.D.
MATERIAL: Silver-gilt, steel, and enamel
SIZE: 189mm x 41mm (spoon) 195mm x 15mm (knife) 198mm x 13mm (fork)
WEIGHT: 46.18 grams (spoon) 38.58 grams (knife) 36.69 grams (fork)
PROVENANCE: Ex. Private Collection, Yorkshire