An Unusual 19thC Treen Carved & Hand Painted Folk Art Love Token in the Form of a Hand Saw


Origin: British
Period: Late Nineteenth Century
Provenance: Unknown
Date: c.1883
Length: 19.25 inches
Height: 5.5 inches (at maximum)
Depth: 1.25 inches (at maximum)

The naïve and primitive love token, in the form of a wooden carved handle and blade with hand painted carved gilt initials E.C and F.S amongst forest green painted vine leaves, dated below in gilt to 1883. The reverse is both plain, flat and unmarked.

Condition is excellent, with the whole displaying a strong patination and deep rich colour with no structural damage. There are some signs of an old worm infestation, but it is light and not current.

In this instance the vine leaves signify the love between E.C and F.S as a growing one. Notable events in the year 1883 included the publication of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island and the opening of the first electric railway in Brighton.

Among the many forms of vernacular folk art, love tokens can be appreciated for their rich symbolic meaning. Love tokens themselves started in around the 15th century with bent and engraved coins the most popular form but wider examples range from precious gold posy rings to pieces of furniture carved with lovers’ initials and often dates of their betrothal or birth of their offspring. Small domestic objects such as lace bobbins, knitting sheaths and stay busks were most likely to be adopted as love tokens though treen items, as we see here, were also popular, with the Welsh love spoon being the most notable example.

Pieces of folk art themselves 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.

An unusual love token, truly made with ‘head, hand and heart’, and in superb original condition, giving us insight into the way love can be expressed through treen; the true folk art of the British Isles.