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Knife (possibly Germany), ca. 1600–1700

This is a knife. It is dated ca. 1600–1700 and we acquired it in 1985. Its medium is ivory, silver, steel. It is a part of the Product Design and Decorative Arts department.

It was the norm for travelers to carry personal cutlery until the early eighteenth century. Cutlery cases were hung from the belt and worn by both men and women. This example is missing its cover, possibly made of silver, which could be attached to the belt with a cord. Early travel cases were just for knives, but later sets included a fork as the implement became gradually accepted. Forks with two long, widely separated prongs were used to stabilize a piece of meat while cutting it with a knife. It was not until the end of the seventeenth century that forks began to be produced with multiple, closely spaced tines.

Elaborately carved handles were standard features of cutlery design until the mid-eighteenth century, when they began to flatten out to form a useful resting place for the thumb. The carved ivory handles of this set feature the god Jupiter and his wife Juno with their avian attributes, the eagle and peacock.

This object was donated by Eleanor L. Metzenberg. It is credited The Robert L. Metzenberg Collection, gift of Eleanor L. Metzenberg.

  • Dish (France)
  • tin-glazed earthenware.
  • Gift of Catharine Oglesby.
  • 1958-119-7

Its dimensions are

L x W: 22.2 x 2.3 cm (8 3/4 x 7/8 in.)

It has the following markings

On blade: fleur-de-lis

Cite this object as

Knife (possibly Germany), ca. 1600–1700; ivory, silver, steel; L x W: 22.2 x 2.3 cm (8 3/4 x 7/8 in.); The Robert L. Metzenberg Collection, gift of Eleanor L. Metzenberg; 1985-103-176-b

This object was previously on display as a part of the exhibition Feeding Desire: Design and the Tools of the Table, 1500-2005.

This image is in the public domain (free of copyright restrictions). You can copy, modify, and distribute this work without contacting the Smithsonian. For more information, visit the Smithsonian’s Terms of Use page.

If you would like to cite this object in a Wikipedia article please use the following template:

<ref name=CH>{{cite web |url= |title=Knife (possibly Germany), ca. 1600–1700 |author=Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum |accessdate=21 March 2023 |publisher=Smithsonian Institution}}</ref>