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Cutlery case

Cutlery case

Culture Group: German
Culture: German
Date: 1572
Medium: Boxwood
Dimensions:
8 1/4 x 1 3/16 x 1 1/16 inches (21 x 3 x 2.8 cm)
Classification: Sculpture
Credit Line: The Brummer Collection
Label Text:Before the ownership of utensils was wide-spread in western Europe, guests to meals outside the home often brought their own table setting, including a knife and fork. Cutlery cases such as these would have been used to carry them. Depending upon the wealth and status of its owner, the cutlery case could be made of modest leather, wood, or precious metal. Middle-class consumers purchased decorated boxwood cutlery cases, which would be transported attached to their belt or girdle.

As a purely utilitarian object, this sheaths also demonstrates how inseparable religious and secular worlds had become. Intricately carved Christian imagery fills both sides of the case. This case displays Old Testament biblical scenes on one side, which prefigure New Testament scenes on the other. The letters “WGW” and the date 1572 at the bottom of the narrow sides link this work with other sheaths of the "WGW" series which belong to a number of European and American collections. This is the earliest example. The initials "WGW" may stand for a workshop or for a popular motto or prayer, "Wenn Gott Will, so is mein Zeil" ("As God wills, so is my aim"). The monogram AK inscribed on the shield on the front side probably identifies the original owner, and would have been carved after the purchase of the case.
Provenance: Ernest [1890-1964] or Joseph [1883-1947] Brummer; by inheritance to Ernest's wife, Ella Brummer; purchased 1966 by Duke University Museum of Art, now Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University.
Object number: 1966.103.1