Front view of this 6.875" inch spoon
Back view of this spoon
Bowl maker mark
FROM THE ARCHIVES | By Archived articles
Two hoof spoons
September 1, 1978 | By ALBERT SCHER; from The Magazine
ANTIQUES, September 1978.
When Helen Burr Smith wrote about silver spoons with hoof-shape
terminals in ANTIQUES in 1944 there were only four of these interesting
survivals from seventeenth-century Dutch New York households known in
America. Now two more hoof spoons have come to light.
Fig. 1-Silver hoof spoon, probably New York, seventeenth century.
Length 6 9/16 inches. Inscribed F-A on the flat of the hoof. It is
nearly identical to the spoon shown in Figs. 2, 2a. Private collection;
photograph by Meyers Studio.
One bears the initials of the unidentified first owner F-A, in
seventeenth-century lettering on the flat of the hoof, but is otherwise
unmarked (Figs. 1, 1a). It appears to be identical to a spoon made by
Ahasuerus Hendricks (Figs. 2, 2a) that was discussed and illustrated in
Miss Smith's article, except that the bowl of the spoon in Figure 1 is
slightly larger than that of the Hendricks example. In both cases, the
hand-wrought fig-shape bowl is nearly soldered to a rattail extension
of the handle-a construction feature typical of seventeenth-century
The fig shape of the bowl attests to the early date of the spoon.
John Marshall Phillips wrote, "...the earliest form [of spoon made in
America] has a deep fig-shaped bowl... this style, popular in England
during the Commonwealth, dates back to the fifteenth centry." And Miss
Smith pointed out, "Because of its fig-shaped bowl, the Hendricks spoon
is thought by experts to be probably earlier that the other
hoof-handled spoons" known in 1944, and possibly even earlier than the
oldest known American spoon which was made about 1664 by John Hull
(1624-1683) and Robert Sanderson (1608-1693) of Boston. Close
examination of the spoon shown in Figure 1 reveals that the angle
formed where the cast handle joins the bowl is greater than that on the
Hendricks spoon. This has suggested to some experts that this spoon is
even older than the Hendricks example.
Fig. 2-Silver hoof spoon made by Ahasuerus Hendricks, New York c.
1680-1700. Length 6 ½ inches. Marked AH conjoined on back of the
bowl (Fig. 2a); inscribed on the flat of the hoof I-L for the first
owner, possibly Johannes Lansing. Yale University Art Gallery, Mabel
Brady Garvan Collection.
The second newly discovered hoof spoon (Figs. 3, 3a) is one of the few
pieces of silver-and the oldest spoon-known to have been made by
Bartholomew Le Roux, the first of a distinguished family of early
American silversmiths. His family was of French descent and had lived
for some time in Holland before moving to England, where Le Roux was
trained. A skilled craftsman by the time he arrived in New York, where
he was married in 1688, his known silver shows that he could work in
both the Dutch and English traditions. For instance, a two-handled bowl
with paneled sides (in the Mabel Brady Garvan Collection at Yale
University) is designed in the true Dutch style, while a richly
decorated caster marked by Le Roux, also in the Garvan Collection, is
very similar in design to an English example in the Victoria and Albert
Museum. Le Roux's hoof spoon is an interesting blend of the two styles.
Typical of hoof spoons made in England, but not of those made in
Holland, the flat of the hoof faces the back of the spoon. On the other
hand, the series of graceful molded lobes at the base of the cast
handle is a feature of seventeenth-century Dutch spoons.
Fig. 2a-Reverse of the spoon shown in Fig.2
The recently discovered hoof spoons are both in excellent condition,
which suggests that they were presentation pieces-rarely-if ever-used
for eating. It is known that the silver spoons were given as gifts to
mark special occasions in the Old World, and many of these traditions
were brought to America in the seventeenth century. For example, Dutch
godparents gave a gebortelepel, or birth spoon, to a newborn child;
newlyweds were often given a silver spoon; and an engraved silver spoon
was commonly presented to each pallbearer at a funeral.
However, the penchant of seventeenth-century Dutch painters for
realistic still lifes gives us proof that hoof spoons, at least, were
pressed into everyday use on occasion. Still Life with Glass and
Metalware, by Jan Jansz. Den Uyl (c. 1595-c. 1640) and a still life of
about 1637 by Willem Claesz Heda (1594-c.1682) both include hoof spoons
in scenes of a meal in progress. It is difficult to determine whether
the spoons in the paintings are silver or pewter, but their presence in
works by these seventeenth-centry artists helps to date this type of
spoon. Joyce Fleur of the Haags Gemeentemuseum in The Hague feels that
silver spoons, possibly hoof spoons, may have been used to eat the
brandy soaked raisins that rich Dutchmen served on feast days in silver
bowls similar to the one by Bartholomew Le Roux mentioned above.
According to John Emery, hoof spoons are probably ultimately
derived from spoons made in Greco-Roman times, particularly in Pompeii,
although the Pompeian form does not include a realistic animal's leg.
The immediate prototype for the Dutch spoons, he says came out of Italy
early in the seventeenth century. Hoof spoons quickly became very
popular in Holland and remained in vogue until about 1660, when they
were replaced by spoons with grotesque figures for terminals.
During the seventeenth century the Netherlands enjoyed a period of
unequaled wealth. It is not surprising; therefore, that Dutchmen who
came to America brought not only such symbols of their prosperity as
silver spoons, but also their Old World traditions and attitudes.
Silver hoof spoons are rare, fascinating reminders of this early Dutch
influence in America.
are other pictures shown for these spoons by clicking here
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