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Dessert knives with case

Object Name: Dessert knives (12) in a box
Date: ca. 1806
Related People:
Medium: Steel, silver, ivory
Dimensions: Each (knife): 9 3/8 × 5/8 × 1/2 in. (23.8 × 1.6 × 1.3 cm) Container (box): 10 1/2 × 4 1/2 × 1 1/4 in. (26.7 × 11.4 × 3.2 cm)
Place made: Europe, France, Paris
Description: Twelve silver and ivory knives in leather-covered wooden case; knives have tapered ivory rectangular handles with fitted, molded tips, and flat, silver, pointed-end blades with molded handle sockets; rectangular wooden case covered in black leather with metal hinges and hook and eye closures; case is lined with green wool; white label on lid painted, "RL" and "EL" in script; paper label inside the lid.
Credit Line: Gift of Goodhue Livingston
Object Number: INV.14119a-m
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Marks: Stamped on the blades: "LESUEUR" over a crowned "A" Painted on the lid: "RL" and "EL" Printed on the label inside the lid: "A L' A COURONNE / Rue des Cannettes, no. 514 Faubourg- / Germain; / LE SUEUR, FILS, / Successeur de son pere. / Coutellier des Ecoles de santé et des / Hopitaux, fait et vend toutes sortes d'Insiru- / ments de chirurgie, tanten argent qu'en acier, / couteaux; Ciseaux, Rasoirs, et tout ce qui/ concerne la Coutellerie. / {Bonnes Lancettes} A PARIS."

Gallery Label:

The initials "R L" boldly inked on the cover of this leather-bound case may be those of Chancellor Robert R. Livingston (1748-1813), who could have acquired this set of dessert knives with ivory handles in Paris during his diplomatic residence there. Following European custom, dessert was served as a separate course and required distinct sets of knives and forks. Matching sets of dessert knives (and forks) became stylish among wealthy Americans during the late eighteenth century. Sets such as this, with steel blades and ivory handles (also available in dyed ivory, bone, horn, or wood) were typical of those manufactured in England and France during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.


Possibly belonged to Robert R. Livingston (1748-1813), who married Mary Stevens (1752-1814); to their daughter Margaret Maria Livingston (1783-1813), who married Robert L. Livingston (1775-1843); to their son Eugene Augustus Livingston (1813-1893), who married (2nd) Elizabeth Rhodes Fisher (1828-1878); to their son, Richard Montgomery Callender Livingston (1861-1945); to his cousin Goodhue Livingston (1867-1951), the donor.


"Stories in Sterling: Four Centuries of Silver in New York," New-York Historical Society, May 4–September 23, 2012; Flagler Museum, Palm Beach, FL, January 28–April 20, 2014.