She’s got a fork!
I wrote my first book on food history (1997) I have been intrigued by a
painting by Jacob Jordaens, The King
Drinks, or The Bean King, celebrating Epiphany. There are several versions of
this painting, but I prefer the one in the Royal Museum of Art in Brussels,
dated circa 1640. At the right the king sits, drinking his wine and holding a
beautiful Raeren or Siegburg spouted jug probably filled with Renish wine.
is surrounded by a group of boisterous people, but he shares the table with a
pretty woman who is holding a fork with three tines. She is really showing of
her quite unique possession. Because, in 1640, few people ate with a fork. So,
she is not only dressed very modish and expensive, but also has nice table
manners. She is really standing out from the crowd.
been trying to identify the fork. Last year I bought a book: Cutlery, from
Gothic to Art Deco, the J. Hollander Collection, 2003. And there I found the
fork, or, one very similar to it. A gilt silver fork with three tines, made in
Germany, early 17th century. That fits with the painting. It also fits
with the German earthenware jug. The design is typical German Renaissance,
according to the book, with some similarities to the work of Erasmus Hornick,
who was born in Antwerp and lived 50 years earlier. Hornick also worked in
Nuremberg (1559) and Augsburg (1570) and died in Prague (1583). But among Hornicks vast
amount of work I don’t find cutlery.
Antwerp, apart from a few trips to the Netherlands. Jordaens was the son of a
wealthy linen merchant. Antwerp a trading port. German wine and earthenware
were popular in the Netherlands and Flanders, so a fork might very well have been
among the presents brought home after a trip to Nuremberg, Frankfurt, Cologne
(Köln) or Aix-la-Chapelle/Aachen.