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tline3open  1888 Gorham Apostle spoons

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Author Topic:   1888 Gorham Apostle spoons
Scott Martin
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Posts: 11377
Registered: Apr 93

iconnumber posted 12-01-2005 11:50 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Scott Martin     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
From an 1888 Gorham Catalogue:
IT IS A FACT that, for ages, the very first gift which a boy or girl received, consisted of one or more spoons these being the established presents by sponsors at christening. The spoons given were called "Apostle Spoons”, because the handle of each was carved into the figure of an apostle with his appropriate emblem.

This practice was in imitation of the heathen, who introduced figures of their gods upon almost, every utensil. The idea as adopted in the middle ages was excellent. A child no sooner learned to feed himself—to use his own spoon — than he began to acquire a knowledge of scriptural and ecclesiastical biography. Every spoonful of food he received conveyed, or might convey a useful lesson to his mind. This shows the influence of religion on the arts in mediaeval times — how ingeniously ecclesiastical matters were interwoven with almost everything; — how even a spoon was made to infuse religious truths into the minds of children while it conveyed pap to their mouths.

In old writings allusions to Apostle spoons are common. In the play of “Henry VIII” (act 5; scene 2), Shakespear makes the King say to Cranmer that he must stand god-father to the young princess, Elizabeth, The Archbishop expresses his unfitness for so great an honor, upon which Henry, bantering him, says he is afraid of the expense of the usual gift to a god-child:

    “Come, come, my lord, you’d spare your spoons.”

Mr. Hone in his Every Day Book (vol. I; p. 176) writes:
    S. Paul’s day being the first festival of an apostle in the year, it is an opportunity for alluding to the old, English custom, with sponors, or visitors at christenings, of presenting spoons, called apostle spoons.

    Persons who could afford it gave the set of twelve; others a smaller number, and a poor person offered the gift of one, with the figure of the saint after whom the child was named or to whom the child was dedicated, or who was the patron saint of the good natured donor.

Old spoons are still to be found, and they are of considerable value from their antiquity and comparative rarity. Only one complete set (13) is know — that in the possession of Goldsmiths’ Company, London. This set was made in 1626. Its great value is owing to the presence of the rare "Master" spoon and to the fact of the whole having been made by one maker at the same time. Fraudulent imitations of old spoons are made in Germany and Holland which find their in large quantities to the English and American markets.

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Scott Martin
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iconnumber posted 12-02-2005 03:54 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Scott Martin     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Do members have examples of these Gorham Apostle spoons to post?

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Posts: 326
Registered: Oct 2004

iconnumber posted 12-03-2005 08:14 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for IJP     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Well, not an apostle spoon per se, but decoratively in line with the apostle motif. I don't currently have a better photo of the figure terminal, but if I take one, I'll be sure to add/replace.

Given the decoration along the handle stem, somewhat reminiscent of Gorham's Cluny or Medici, I had always thought it might be a design of F. Antoine Heller.

Added a few minutes later:

Didn't Heller's Old Masters pattern include "apostle-esque" figure terminals?

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Paul Lemieux

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Registered: Apr 2000

iconnumber posted 12-04-2005 08:16 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Paul Lemieux     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Great fork, IJP. I think that the figures on it may be classical rather than christian. Most of the motifs on the handle are classical. Is the female figure at the top carrying something in her arm? That could be her attribute; if so, we could figure out who she represents.

As for Old Masters, each different design in that multi-motif pattern had, as its finial, a bust of a famous arist such as Rembrandt or Velazquez.

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iconnumber posted 12-04-2005 10:21 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for salmoned     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Looks to be a lyre.

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iconnumber posted 12-05-2005 02:24 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for IJP     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Yes, it's a lyre... My Classical mythology is a little rusty, so I can't certainly make a good guess... I'm sure the lyre is very common in Classical symbolism... The only time I recall one is in the Orpheus and Eurydice story. The figure is definitely female. In any event, this not being an Apostle motif, I won't let the discussion stray too far. Does anyone have true apostle spoons to post?

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