Identifying Apostle Spoon Figures
By Jacob Khokhlov, 62days expert
Apostle spoon collections are rare antique spoon sets, often made of silver, which contain a carving of an apostle on each spoon. They were produced during the middle ages – mostly during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries – and were popular gifts among Europe’s wealthier classes.
The ideal set of 13 apostle spoons contains a figure of the Master and twelve apostles. Each figure has its own identifying emblems.
- The Master is always shown with his right hand raised in blessing, while in the left hand he holds the orb and the cross.
- St. John usually holds his right hand in blessing while in his left he holds the cup, and unlike all other figures, except the Master, he is usually beardless.
- St. Peter carries keys to heaven.
- St.James the Greater carries a pilgrim’s staff and, occasionally a hat or a shell.
- St. James the Less has a fuller’s bat with a club end.
- St. Andrew carries a saltire cross (a diagonal cross).
- St. Bartholomew has a flaying knife.
- St. Matthew holds a halberd or a pole-axe.
- St. Thomas has a spear.
- St. Simon Zelotes holds a saw.
- St. Jude carries a long processional cross.
- St. Matthew was usually shown carrying the builder’s square instrument, while from the 17th century onwards he carries the tax collector’s money bag.
- St. Philip carries a cross.
- St. Paul usually carries a sword.
All apostle figures are generally depicted also carrying a book in one hand. Quite often it is possible to confuse apostle characters, especially on broken or worn spoons. It is important to note that apostle spoons were not produced in England, and all antique examples come from the European countries, usually the Netherlands, France, Italy and Germany.
Full sets of all twelve apostles are quite rare, and complete sets of thirteen, with the figure of Jesus on a larger spoon, are still harder to find and therefore more valuable.
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