Sunday, May 19, 2013

Wondering what to get your Renaissance-era baby? How about a rattle — complete with a wolf’s tooth?

The top example in the imageset above is described further in a blog post from The Stirling Smith Art Gallery and Museum:

After two years in Spittal Street, the internationally important Neish Collection of British Pewter will be displayed in the Stirling Smith Art Gallery and Museum, later this year. Shown here is a small item from it, a baby rattle dating to the 1540s. The rattle opens into a ball shape with 4 copper alloy bells attached. Under this there is a long stem which ends in a whistle. At the whistle end are the pewterer’s initials cast as part of the design – A.B. or A.I.B. The whole object is covered in cross hatching except the ball which has an Elizabethan-style design around it.

This type of rattle was common, until the end of the 18th century, but with one difference: the hard ‘teething’ piece, on which the baby could cut its first teeth was usually a piece of coral, imported from Africa or the southern Mediterranean. The ‘teething’ piece here is the canine tooth of a wolf, which the baby could press to its gums, to relieve the pain. The rattle will feature in the book The Tudor Child: Clothing and Culture 1485 to 1625, by Jane Huggett, Jane Malcolm-Davies, Ninya Mikhaila, and Perry Michael, published this month.

For examples of the 18th & 19th century rattles with coral teething pieces, see V&A M.18-1996 or M.18-1973 or Met 1978.287.

Notes

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