A Wonderful 18thC English One Piece Folk Art Walking Cane Carved as a Lion

Origin: English
Period: Queen Anne/George I/II
Provenance: Unknown
Date: c.1700-50
Length: 33.5 inches

The early one piece folk art cane, the large terminal carved as an early primitive depiction of a lions head, with polychrome decoration and painted tongue and teeth, the whole with a superb patination, the maple lacquered oak(?) shaft possibly cut down at one stage terminating in an 18thC brass ferrule.

The condition of the cane is good with no losses to the carving, only wear to the whole which is commensurate with age with the black painted decoration to the head part worn in areas making it very decorative. The top lacquer coat to the shaft has deteriorated towards the lower end. There has been a hold drilled to both sides of the head at some stage probably to hang it and the cane naturally bends slightly to one way towards its tip. It has a nice balance and pleasing weight to it and the rather long ferrule is certainly also of eighteenth century in date.

Among the many forms of vernacular folk art, carved canes and sticks can be appreciated for both their beauty and their practicality. Folk art walking sticks essentially came out of a deep-seated desire for self-expression and were mostly made from materials, which could be easily obtained, in their natural environment; in this case the English countryside. Woodworkers decorated their wooden sticks with intricate hand carvings as we see in this example. The size of this cane may point to it being a larger piece at some stage, perhaps ceremonial and there is a chance it is earlier than eighteenth century.

Pieces of folk art are ephemeral, simple, and often crude, though they are always enchanting. They were made by unskilled people, usually provincially, for everyday use and enjoyment, and are naively decorated, and made of basic materials. Folk art provides an excellent insight into the everyday life of ordinary people in times of old, and for that reason we love it. Folk art sticks are notoriously difficult to define. Antique folk art covering the period of late 17th century to early 20th century can be found originating from all parts of the globe, made from a number of materials such as wood, bone, horn etc. (materials that were readily to hand and often inexpensive for the artisan or hobbyist). Regularly made from a single branch, but also could have been made from a mixture of materials as can be found with marine and whaler canes. Often depicting animals and people, the carving can be amusing, disturbing and even educational. (thanks to Shaun at antiquecanes.co.uk)

With mesmerising patination to its paint layers this early example is wonderfully folksy and decorative. Hugely charming.