Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Unusual Artifacts: A Gold and Jeweled Toothpick, 1580

Gold Toothpick with enamel, rubies and a diamond.
Germany?, 1580
The Victoria & Albert Museum
This is not the kind of toothpick you’d find in a dispenser in a diner. Irritating people would call this, an “extreme toothpick.”

But it is a toothpick. A gold toothpick, but a toothpick nonetheless. The handle depicts a nude female figure of Lucretia, adorned with flowing bands enameled in blue and red, and with garters of red enamel just below each knee.

Her head is surmounted by a loop from which the toothpick might be suspended on a cord or ribbon. Lucretia (a legendary figure from Roman history) sits upon a scroll which has been enameled in green on the front, and in blue and black on the reverse. The toothpick’s sickle-shaped blade is engraved and was prepared for the application of enamel, however most of what was there has been lost. Only black enamel remains. The ornamentation between the handle and the blade is enameled in blue, red, white and green. The toothpick is set with two rubies and one diamond--all table-cut. You know, like most toothpicks.

This was made in 1580 and probably in Germany. The Sixteenth Century saw a resurgence of elaborately decorated toothpicks such as those that had been, at the time, recently discovered in ancient ruins.

No comments: