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Wedding knife

Artist or maker:
Unknown
Date:
c 1625-c 1650
Place of production:
London, England, United Kingdom
Medium:
steel, amber, ivory, silver and gold
Type of object:
knives (cutting tools)
Accession number:
3097

Commentary

Wedding knives were a traditional present given to brides from the 14th to 17th centuries. The delicate decoration on this knife indicates it was such an object. The contrasting amber and ivory squares may have been symbolic of the union between husband and wife.

Similar knives made in London in the first half of the 17th century appear in many collections, including the Victoria & Albert Museum (acc. no. M.12 to B-1950). The mark of the dagger found on the Waddesdon knife was used by the London Cutler's Company as a sign of quality. The owner of the grapes and spur mark has not been identified. Several makers laid claim to the mark of the grapes, including William Ball who made a wedding knife around 1630, now in the V&A (acc. no. M.2684-1931). The maker who used the spur was probably another bladesmith who wanted to differentiate his mark. From 1661, the grapes and spur was used by Gabriel Briggs, but the style of the knife is somewhat earlier.

The handle would have been made by a specialist hafter. The bolster at the top of the blade would have been decorated by a third craftsman who would have specialised in the decoration of iron objects of all kinds, including swords, daggers and spurs.

The knife was acquired by Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild (1839-1898) and displayed in the Smoking Room in the Bachelors' Wing alongside other knives with amber handles from Germany and England.

Phillippa Plock, 2013.

Physical description

Dimensions (mm):
236 x 16 x 15; 166 x 14 (blade); weight 34g.
Marks:
[grapes and spur]
Maker's mark
[rear of blade]

History

Provenance:
Acquired by Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild (b.1839, d.1898); inherited by his sister Alice de Rothschild (b.1847, d.1922); inherited by her great-nephew James de Rothschild (b.1878, d.1957); ); accepted by The Treasury Solicitor in lieu of taxes on the Estate of Mr James de Rothschild in 1963; given to Waddesdon The Rothschild Collection (The National Trust) in 1963.
Collection:
Waddesdon (National Trust)
Accepted by HM Government in lieu of inheritance tax and allocated to the National Trust for display at Waddesdon Manor, 1963

Bibliography

Bibliography

Claude Blair, Anthony Blunt; The James A. de Rothschild Collection at Waddesdon Manor: Arms, Armour and Base-Metalwork; Fribourg; Office du Livre; 1974; pp. 442-445, cat. no. 195, ill.

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