This is an ephemeral bit of fluff, because all too soon, the auctions will end and be forgotten. I will nevertheless observe that I’ve found a corner of eBay, “Antiques > Silver > Silverplate > Other,” that’s full of objects that ought not exist outside the works of Edward Gorey. For instance, the Victorian silver-plated grape scissors. I pasted the link to Patrick in chat.
“You mean to tell me the Victorians had dedicated scissors for grapes?” he asked. “They couldn’t eat grapes without their special grape-scissors?”
“High-end Victorian tableware had special utensils for everything,” I told him. And it’s true; they really did. The proliferation of specialized Victorian serving pieces was a perfect-storm-style collision of technological ingenuity, unbridled commerce, social insecurity, and conspicuous consumption. This is why we have items like the asparagus tongs, fish slice, tomato server, delicately pierced A-1 Sauce bottle holder, silver repoussé muffineer, and the likeable but undeniably Goreyesque hedgehog toothpick holder.
Serving dishes proliferated too, growing stranger and more specialized (or just more elaborate) to justify their existence. Pickle containers have never been more ornate. If I understand the nomenclature correctly (which I probably don’t), more complicated models can be pickle cruets. They reach their apex as pickle castors, at which point they look like they were intended to hold holy relics.
(Am I being unfair to the Victorians? I certainly am. The egg cup with a built-in internal egg-cutter and the Martian-spaceship-domed breakfast warmer with ram’s hooves are both Art Deco, and the deceptively steampunk-ish teakettle is Jugendstil.)
I think the original Miscellaneous Other category was invented for epergnes. I wish to nominate as the pièce de résistance the two-foot-high silver-cherub-supported centerpiece/epergne with a vigorous gout of Victorian art glass coming out of its top. There’s a compote that’s just crying to accompany it.
From The Unstrung Harp:
Mr. Earbrass returned from a walk to find a large carton blocking the hall. Masses of brown paper and then tissue have reluctantly given up an unnerving silver-gilt combination epergne and candelabrum. Mr. Earbrass recollects a letter from a hitherto unknown admirer of his work, received the week before; it hinted at the early arrival of an offering that embodied, in a different but kindred form, the same high-souled aspiration that animated its recipient’s books. Mr. Earbrass can only conclude that the apathy of the lower figures is due to their having been deprived of novels.