Scattered knives and dismembered song: cutlery, music and the rituals of dining

Dennis, Flora (2011) Scattered knives and dismembered song: cutlery, music and the rituals of dining. In: Motture, Peta and O'Malley, Michelle (eds.) Re-thinking Renaissance Objects: Design, Function and Meaning. Renaissance Studies Special Issues, 5 . Wiley-Blackwell, Chichester, pp. 156-184. ISBN 9781444337754

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One of the rarest sixteenth-century objects going into the new Medieval and Renaissance Galleries has a dual identity: it is both a knife and a piece of music. On one side of its broad blade is a clear, perfectly notated musical setting of a blessing of the table, to be sung before a meal; on the other, a prayer giving thanks, to be sung when the meal has ended. This knife is usually presented as a single item. However, the inscription '.i.9 [primus] tenor' implies the existence of other voices, suggesting that it was once part of a larger set of knives, each of which bore one part of a complete polyphonic, or multi-voiced, song. This article confirms that the V&A's knife is one of at least twenty examples surviving in other museums and collections or published during the nineteenth century, and is the first study to consider them as a group. It explores the possible social and symbolic functions of these distinctive objects, relating them to contemporary dining practices, and situates them in the context of broader relationships between music and the material culture of the table during the sixteenth century.

Item Type: Book Section
Additional Information: This was first published as an article in a special issue of the peer-reviewed journal Renaissance Studies. The special issue was subsequently published as a book.
Schools and Departments: School of History, Art History and Philosophy > Art History
Depositing User: Flora Dennis
Date Deposited: 06 Feb 2012 20:07
Last Modified: 12 Nov 2014 15:50
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