Which cane lover is not fascinated by those canes with large ivory knobs, with skillful tiny silver inlay arranged with overlapping scrolls and occasionally highlighted with initials and dates?
A universe unto themselves within the cane world, piqué canes are English and from the period around 1700. The technique was brought to England with the Huguenots fleeing France after Louis XIV stripped them of all civil and religious liberties with his Edict of Nantes in 1665.
Encountered in relatively similar basic shapes and in different lengths, the larger part of these knobs were turned on a lathe with circumscribing ridges and deeply hollowed to prevent cracking. They are generally pierced by eyelet holes, fitted with extremely thin silver collars scalloped along the lower edge and sturdily mounted on real Malacca shafts.
The inlay work, particularly distinguishing them, is an always different and time consuming arrangement of silver circlets or hollowed pins individually placed in small or larger clusters creating simple designs such as circles, overlapping C-scrolls, floral and geometric motifs.
The remarkably short span of time in which they were produced, with the earliest, so far, recorded example dating 1687 and the latest 1717 as well as an evidently common style identity suggest they were all made in one workshop or even by one craftsman.
These wonderful examples are representative of the highly regarded English piqué canes from the ending 17th century and have the added value of a hearty size and decoration. Endowed with their ultimate expression, they enjoy the distinction of having retained all their original parts and aged beautifully with a warm patina grown over three hundred years.
While English piqué canes are mostly encountered with larger ivory knobs and silver circlets, their French counterparts were considerably more delicate and generally fitted with gold pins. The great variety of shapes, patterns and used materials speaks for different workshops and longer period of production. The finest examples are from the middle of 18th century and made of solid tortoiseshell with individually and very closely spaced set minuscule pinheads, which create a micro, lace-like effect with a silky feel, which obviously is reason for the attribution of piqué brodé.
Above: A rarely encountered French Piqué cane with a small ivory knob on its slim and real Malacca shaft and fluted 2-1/4” tall bone ferrule. Turned in the shape of a skittle, the 2-3/4” high knob has several registers placed over one another and adorned with fine metal wire Piqué and six striking shields. Identical, the round shields display a radiating sun-like micro-mosaic motif and are composed of metal wire, ivory and dark baleen. Featuring desirable accents, this 18th century cane offers a fascinating glimpse into the very sophisticated way of life of a restricted group of nobility and rulers from the pre-revolution period. It is without doubt of English inspiration but French interpreted with a wonderful delicate, eventually feminine touch. Overall length 36”.
Below: The wonderful examples shown below are representative of the highly regarded English Piqué canes from the ending 17th century and have the added value of a hearty size and decoration. Endowed with their ultimate expression, they enjoy the distinction of having retained all their original parts and aged beautifully with a warm patina grown over three hundred years.
Above: A first rate and early French dress cane entirely fashioned of tortoiseshell with a piqué-brodé knob and plain shaft with gold fittings. Decorated with individually set and very closely spaced miniscule gold pin-heads, the three quarter of an inch high knob’s surface looks like micro lace and has its silky feel. The plain and elegantly tapering, solid tortoiseshell shaft, reflecting a superb, mottled warm color in a sublime translucency, is emphasized by a magnificently chased yellow gold collar with eyelets and swiveling bar en suite on the top, and, by a long and plain gold ferrule with iron tip on the bottom. This breathtaking cane is the most accomplished nobleman’s accessory one could ever encounter and, a chef-d’oeuvre of elegance and good taste, it is from the ending 19th century and in flawless condition. The still present original long loop with two tassels, woven of the fine blond hair of a living goddess, makes it a dream of an object in every sense. Overall length 36 1/4 in.
1. Picture and picture descriptions by Youssef Kadri.