Handmade pizza cutter: phallus-like handle turned of bocote wood; tandem rotary cutting blades in brass frame. Acrylic and brass stand. 1897

Lot 1013 Circa 1897-1898

This proud and enigmatic pizza slicer is alleged to have been part of the estate of Oscar Wilde and claims a provenance of mythic proportion.

Conjecture informs that this slicer was designed and commissioned by James Whistler and presented as a commemorative gift to Wilde shortly after Oscar’s return from a brief sojourn in Naples with his lover, Lord Alfred Bruce Douglas, son of the Marquess of Queensbury.

When Wilde and Douglas were spied in a secluded back-street pizzeria sharing a slice of the famed Neapolitan pie, it provided ample grist for the Victorian gossips and scandal mongers, particularly his rival, James Abbott McNeill Whistler.

It is well documented that Whistler and Wilde had a longstanding, but rather fractious frenemy relationship characterized by public exchanges of sardonic repartee.

Given the overall unrestrained form of this prodigious culinary tool, this memorial souvenir from Whistler has largely been interpreted by art critics as a tangibly “cutting” and mocking commentary on Wilde’s affections for “the love that dare not speak its name.”

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