Silver spoons

Europe16th-17th century
15.4 cm in length
20.1 cm in length
14.4 cm in length

Spoons are among the earliest domestic objects, based on natural conch or leaf-like shapes - and, rather than being shared as much as dishes and knives were, they were treasured individual possessions. The earliest in date, from the early sixteenth century and probably Portuguese, seen at the bottom, and worked from a single wrought silver ingot, features a shallow fig or pear-shaped bowl with shaped edges near the shaft worked with files, a straight prismatic handle and a simple rounded finial with incised lines also made by filing. On the back, the shaft meets the bowl in a rattail, a feature which is typical of these earlier spoons.

The shape of the larger spoon in the centre evolved from that of the previous example, and features a similar, albeit deeper pear- shaped bowl which meets the shaft at an angle, resulting in a crooked joint reminiscent of the Ancient Roman ligulae: a feature that is typical of mid-sixteenth century, namely Iberian spoons which served as models for the production of rock-crystal examples made in Ceylon for the Lisbon court. The shaft is decorated near the bowl with a cast heraldic appliqué which remained blank. The finial, also made by sand-casting features a similar Renaissance-style decoration.The simple shaft, round in section, is engraved with a later owner’s inscription: “IOCHIM RITOW 1661”. The third spoon, seen at the top, probably of Portuguese manufacture (with later, unidentified hallmarks), dated to the mid or second half of the seventeenth century and made from two pieces soldered together, has an oval bowl and an undulated shaft in wrought silver and a split finial. The oval-shaped bowl was in the mid-seventeenth century a novelty, and its use in Portugal is documented from a 1676 still-life with deserts by Josefa de Óbidos. Also the shaft, made flat, was an innovation that would remain in flatware design until the present.


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