Get a Grip - Antique Walking Sticks
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ART & ANTIQUES, September 2010--
Though today we may think of a cane as no more than a crutch, in the 16th century well into the early 20th century, a walking stick was a fashionable accessory and a symbol of status for a gentleman, or even a lady. In fact, as Bill Rau of M.S. Rau Antiques in New Orleans, one of the world's leading dealers in antique walking sticks, explains, "all well-heeled gentlemen wore canes. Every president from George Washington through Harry Truman wore a cane and also had different canes for different purposes and occasions."
Collectors acknowledge two distinct categories of walking sticks: decorative and system canes. In the decorative category, no canes are more sought after than those crafted by the Russian goldsmith Carl Fabergé. The circa 1905 Fabergé cane shown here has a bowenite handle and is crowned by a bezel-set cabochon ruby. The pink guilloche enamel collar is entwined by forget-me-nots wrought in rose and yellow gold, and bordered by a gold laurel. The cane is inscribed "56 AP," which indicates a gold weight of 56 zolotnicks (14 carats), and the mark of Alexander Romanov, a St. Petersburg gold assayer. This cane is available at M.S. Rau for $43,850.
As for system canes, they had their heyday in Paris during the second half of the 19th century. With the rise of the middle class, Parisian manufacturers designed canes that could aid a gentleman with his vocation and keep all the necessary accoutrements close at hand. This painter's easel cane contains an easel attachment in its shaft which turns the walking stick into a standing easel. Capitalizing on John G. Rand's 1841 invention of tube paint, which allowed artists the ease to paint wherever they pleased without the hassles of blending powder paints, this walking stick also contains an area for paint storage and a palette for mixing. The cap on the snakeskin handle can be removed to reveal a paintbrush holder. Rau considers this "the world's best painter's cane" and it is priced at $16,850.
-SARAH E. FENSOM