Nutcracker (?)

Northern European
Medieval (Gothic)
late 14th–15th century

Object Place: Europe, France, North France


15 x 3.7 x 1.4 cm (5 7/8 x 1 7/16 x 9/16 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique

One half latten (78.4% copper, 15.5% zinc, 4.6% lead, 1.5% tin); one half brass (82.9% copper, 14.6% zinc, 2.5% lead)

Not On View





Two nearly identical curved pieces arranged like pliers and held together with a rivet. Cast and chased. The handles, which taper gradually toward the ends, are hexagonal in section; the one remaining has a loop near its end showing a female head with hair in a chignon beneath a crispine. Further down on the handles, immediately before the crossing, are two running dogs with long tails chasing birds perched on beast-head terminals; when the ends are pulled apart the dogs appear to bite the tails of the birds. Each beast head bites the tail of a hawk. On the inner surfaces of the two heads are oval concavities (about 1 cm. in length).


1939, found at Lille, France and acquired by M. Geezen, Lille; March 5, 1939, sold by Geezen to Henri Garnier, Lille; July 28, 1939, sold by Garnier to the Brummer Gallery, New York (stock no. P16017); May 12, 1949, Brummer sale, Parke-Bernet Galleries, New York, lot 358, to the MFA for $180. (Accession Date: May 12, 1949)

[1] This was purchased together with MFA accession no. 49.478.

Credit Line

William Francis Warden Fund