The Wallace Collection

The Wallace Collection, A Family Collection, A National Museum, An International Treasure House
Serving knife
  • Serving knife
  • Unknown Artist / Maker
  • France or Burgundy
  • c. 1430 - 1440
  • Iron, steel, rosewood, gold, silver, enamel and copper, enamelled
  • Length: 13.4 cm, handle
    Length: 27.7 cm, blade
    Width: 5.5 cm, maximum
    Weight: 0.13 kg
  • Inscription: 'AULTRE NARAY'
    Maker's mark: Cutler's mark In copper
  • A881
  • European Armoury I
Commentary
History
Images & Media
Further Reading
  • Serving knife. The rosewood grip is mounted with silver gilt inlaid with translucent enamels. On either side of the pommel, and on the collar, are the arms of Philip III (‘the Good’), Duke of Burgundy (1396-1467), which he assumed after his marriage with Isabella of Portugal in 1429-30. It was in her honour that he instituted the Order of the Golden Fleece, and the collar of the order (composed of the flint and fire-steel of Burgundy) encircles the shield. The surrounding gilt metal is inlaid with flowers in red and blue, and on the strip of the same metal inlaid along each side of the grip is an oblong strip enamelled with the duke's motto (also assumed upon his marriage with Isabella):

    AULTRE NARAY

    The broad blade has a curved edge with a straight back, very slightly inclined at the point; it is thin and flexible, in excellent condition and bear's the cutler's mark in copper. This knife is very light in weight, well proportioned, and of fine workmanship. Compare the serving knife A880.

    French, 1430-5.

    Viollet-le-Duc II, 77-9 Lièvre, Musées et collections, 1 ser., pI. 86 Bailey, Knives and forks , fig. 1 (2).

    Provenance: Count Alessandro Catellani (couteau aux armes de Philippe le bon, 2,500 fr.; receipted bill, 3 April, 1867); Comte de Nieuwerkerke.
    Offered by the Count to the South Kensington Museum for purchase in 1870 at £140. Receipted date 7 October, and marked in pencil: £140; 3,000 fr.
    The blazon of the Grand écu de Bourgogne is briefly as follows: Quarterly: 1, 4, Burgundy modern; 2, Burgundy ancient impaling Brabant; 3, Burgundy ancient impaling Limburg; over all Flanders.

    The full motto of Phillip the Good was Aultre n'auray Dame Isabeau tant que vivray ('Other will I not have, Dame Isabeau, while I live'). Isabella was his third wife; he had over a hundred bastards.

    Entries in the Burgundian inventories suggest that this knife may have been made at Dijon. One under the date 13 February, 1374 (quoted by Dalton) appears to relate to similar knives:

    Jacquot Le Topetet, coustelier, demorant à Dijon: 15 fr. pour 5 paires de cousteaux, eguaignez et garnis et d' esmail.

    This Le Topetet was fourlisseur to the previous duke, John the Intrepid, from 1372 until his death in 1398; A881 may have been the work of his successor. The first twenty-four collars of the Golden Fleece, however, were made for Phillip by Jean Peutin orfèvre à Bruges (Kervyn de Lettenhove, La Toison d' Or, Bruxelles, 1907, p. 22), and this knife must have been made about the same time but the close connection of the dukes with Paris does not exclude that city as the place of origin.

    The knife belongs to a very notable group:

    1. Two in the museum at Vienna (one large and one small); they have the same arms and motto as A881, and is apparently identical in shape, style and workmanship. They bear the same cutler's mark. (Kevryn de Lettenhove, Toison d' Or (text), no. 38; Boeheim, Album I, Taf. XLI, fig. 2)

    2. One in the Carrand Collection in the Bargello at Florence with the same arms and motto as A881, and very similar in shape, style and workmanship. (Firenze, Museo Nazionale, 1898, no. 855, p. 156; Sangiorgi, p. 30 and pl. 80).

    3. A set of four knives in the British Museum (two large and two small), with incised leather scabbard, made for John the Intrepid (see O. M. Dalton, Archaeologia, LX, xvii, 14 March, 1907, p. 423; Guide to the Mediæval Room, 1907, p. 180). The larger of these knives is very close in shape, style and workmanship to A881. The same wood has been used for the grip, the enamels are of the same colours, and the shields and motto are similarly placed. The cutler's mark on the blade however, is a star, whereas the Wallace knife bears the mark of a cross surmounting a triangle of three dots (in copper).

    4. Two in the museum at Dijon with the same arms and motto as A881, and with finely incised leather scabbard. (Viollet-le-Duc II, p. 79, but incorrectly described; Gonse, Sculpture, pp. 151-2).

    5. One in the museum at Le Mans bearing the same arms and motto as A881, with incised leather sheath (made to contain two large knives and one small) with similar decoration. It is exceptionally large in size (Hucher, Bulletin de la Soc. d' Agriculture, Sciences et Arts du Mans, 1859; Viollet-le-Duc II, p. 79; Lettenhove (text), no. 37).

    6. One in the Louvre (Département du Moyen Age et de Renaissance) with the same arms and motto as A881, but the briquet is replaced by a device composed of two Gothic letters, and united by a cord with tasselled ends.
    Other knives are in the Real Armeria, Madrid, with the arms of Castile and Léon (G 161, 162), and in the Philadelphia Museum of Art (ex-E. Foulc, Paris).
    The marshalling of the arms of Brabant and Limburg was assumed not on the duke's marriage with Isabella of Portugal on 6 January, 1430 (new style), but a few months later on his coronation as Duke of Barbant on 5 October.
    The name Jehan Peutin is sometimes, but erroneously, written Pentin.

    Philip the Good (1396-1467) ruled as Duke of Burgundy from 1419 until 1465. During this period, the Burgundian Court became a brilliant cultural centre, admired, envied and emulated throughout Western Europe. Philip himself became one of the Duchy’s most famous and successful rulers; by the end of his reign he had virtually doubled the Burgundian lands, and ensured that Burgundy itself had become a byword for all that was noble and powerful. This serving or carving knife was as much a visible symbol of the Duke of Burgundy’s wealth and taste as a mere item of cutlery; it would have been used as part of a set of such knives, conspicuously and with great ceremony during important state occasions and banquets.