Description Knife-and-fork sets were common wedding presents among the elite in Flanders and the Dutch Republic during the 1600s. Pairing forceful Mars, god of war, with virtuous but resourceful Diana, goddess of the hunt, was a gesture to the qualities that couples saw in each other, although these two gods were never a pair in Greco-Roman mythology. In the 1600s, one was expected to have one's own eating utensils, and the use of a fork was a new sign of civility; in the Renaissance, most people, including the nobility, ate with their hands. Though ostensibly for use, knife and fork sets with handles of ivory or semiprecious stone could be displayed as prestige gifts and as demonstrations of virtuosity in carving.
Provenance Hollingworth Magniac Collection, Culworth [date and mode of acquisition unknown]; Hollingworth Magniac Sale, Christie's, London, July 4, 1892, lot 671; Henry Walters, Baltimore, 1902 [mode of acquisition unknown]; Walters Art Museum, 1931, by bequest.
Credit Acquired by Henry Walters, 1902
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