The Richard Whittington Spoons.

By Cathy Chivers


Gothic, 'The Art of England', 1400-1547, exhibition, which is currently showing at the V&A Museum, has on display a wonderful set of four spoons, circa 14l0. Each 18.4cm in length, with hexagonal knops, faceted sterns and fig-shaped bowls, were once the possession of Richard Whittington. They are now in the collection of the Mercers' Company, to whom he was a great benefactor. I am also grateful to the V &A for allowing me to extract information from their magnificently illustrated catalogue which no doubt will become the definitive work on Gothic, and accompanies this exhibition.

The back of each bowl has engraved upon it a shield with the Whittington arms. Argent, a fesse checky, or and azure, in dexter chief an amulet for difference. Best known for being Lord Mayor of London, (legend of Whittington and his cat) he was a Mercer, Founder of Whittington College, a member of the Common Council, Alderman for Broad Street Ward, and Sheriff, who married Alice the daughter of Sir Ivo Fitzwaryn, a wealthy landowner. He became a rich and powerful merchant and frequently lent money to the Crown. Although these spoons are plain, they are the only surviving pieces from his important collection of plate and jewellery. Their leather carrying case (23cms long), which is pictured in the catalogue, is of a later period, circa 1679.

Reproduction by courtesy of the Mercers' Company.

This major exhibition is on until January 18th 2004, celebrating the glories of the medieval artists and includes, jewellery, stained glass, architecture, manuscripts, tapestries and silver plate, amongst its many treasures.

There is also a set of Apostle spoons, London 1536-7 known as the Astor spoons, being unique in having the figure of the Virgin Mary rather than Christ as its centrepiece, on loan from the British Museum. Only a tiny percentage of objects from this rich, creative and dramatic period survived after the dissolution of the monasteries, this splendid exhibition brings together the 'best' works of art.

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.7.
The Finial, December/January/February 2003/04


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