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Feast & Fast

The Art of Food in Europe, 1500 – 1800

8 & 9: Matthew Parker’s rosewater basin and ewer with hinged cover

This spectacular rosewater basin and ewer are late Gothic in style, dating from the reign of Henry VIII (1509 – 47). They are believed to be the earliest ewer and basin of this sort to survive anywhere in the world, and were used at Elizabeth I’s 40th birthday party. Such sets were used by diners to cleanse their hands in delicately scented rosewater before and after grand feasts. The passing scent of the rosewater would have competed with the highly perfumed bodies of the diners, who often overdid it with their scented pomanders designed to mask their natural body odour.

Unidentified maker, London, England, 1545 Silver gilt The Master and Fellows of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge

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