Published: November 18, 2003
– An elegant and early English cane dated 1669 became the highlight of the day at Tradewinds Antiques’ recent cane auction when it sold for $11,760, a world record price paid at auction for an English pique cane.
The cane’s elephant ivory handle was fancifully decorated in silver pique forming crosses and scrolls and bore the inscription “A R 69.” The three-quarter-inch silver collar, which was punched and scalloped, was set atop a honey-toned Malacca shaft ending in a four-inch incised brass and iron ferrule. The cane had been consigned by an American collector and after the intense bidding had subsided, it went to another American collector.
The ingenious and highly varied manifestations of canes have long been of interest to collectors with the cane market remaining steady in the face of market volatility in some other arenas.
An unusual and seldom seen example was the circa 1860 Austrian violin cane that sold to a collector for $11,200, a record price for the category. Its mahogany tau handle unscrewed to reveal a fitted mahogany horsehair bow with horn and ivory decoration. The cane itself opened to reveal a maple soundboard with an ebony bridge that raised the strings for tuning by means of the enclosed clock key. The instrument was said to be capable of producing fine sound and had been recently restored.
Remington dog-head curio canes are of perennial interest in the marketplace and a circa 1875 example with a Remington gutta percha hound above the nickel collar brought a hearty and mid-estimate $9,800. The cane unscrewed to accommodate a 32-caliber cartridge. Another curio cane, a circa 1895 pepperbox gun example, brought $6,720. The dark horn handle turned to allow the user to extract a nickel pepperbox pistol from the interior. It also contained a five-inch stiletto. The cane, possibly German, was modeled after the patent of French gunsmith N. Simon.
A Swiss music box cane made from a single piece of hardwood, perhaps birch, beautifully carved with a pug sitting on a music box just below the handle sold for $6,440. The music box was in good working order and played an alpine tune.
An ebony cane with a steel crook decorated in elaborate gold damascene with images of dragons and flowers and geometric designs attracted quite a bit of attention and eventually sold for a world record price at auction for a damascene cane at $4,368. This example was probably made in England using a handle imported from Toledo, Spain, circa 1890.
An elephant ivory cane carved in the form of a finely detailed basket of puppies was estimated at $1,2/1,800 and sold for $3,024.
Bidders liked an unusual English cane with a dark stained elephant ivory handle carved as a donkey with brown glass eyes. A button in the silver collar depressed to allow the donkey’s ears to perk upward and his mouth open to reveal a red tongue. Purportedly made by Briggs of London, the cane boar London hallmarks for 1896 and sold for $4,200.
Then there was the very charming circa 1880 partridge wood cane with a walrus ivory handle carved in the form of a French lady of pleasure. Called a “brothel cane,” the piece was inscribed “Madame Plaisir, Orleans” and sold for $4,480, nicely above the estimated $2,5/3,500.
All prices quoted reflect the 12 percent premium.
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