The use of personal knives at meals was a mark of Manchu identity. Manchu men were supposed to cut their meat themselves so as to not fall into the decadent Han Chinese habit of eating their meat pre-cut. When eating sacrificial pork, women were also expected to cut up their own meat. Knives with other eating utensils formed part of the dowries of princesses and even maidservants (see the exhibition catalogue ibid., pp. 197-201).
This knife was formerly in the collection of Millicent Rogers (1902-1953), a legendary socialite known for her intelligence and beauty and was reputedly close with Madame Soong Mei-ling (1897-2003). Millicent Rogers was the granddaughter of Henry H. Rogers, who co-founded Standard Oil with John D. Rockefeller and was a patron of the famous American writer Mark Twain (1835-1910). Fluent in six languages, Millicent translated Latin and Greek poetry. She was also gifted in fashion and jewellery design. With her privileged upbringing and artistic talents, Rogers was a connoisseur and collector with a highly refined personal taste. A white jade 'ram-head' teapot originally in her collection was sold in these rooms, 3rd October 2017, lot 3613.
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