Do you know the changing use and social function of walking sticks? From “beginnings,” to status-symbol, to collector’s item.
The walking stick has always served two functions, first functional and then decorative. In history this object follows a long sequence of periods and goes through various events in fashion and costume. The staff over time changes its intrinsic value from strong symbolism related to political or religious power to then representing other values in tune with the times.
A bit of history
In the 1400s, the staff held a value of sacredness, a purely symbolic value in addition to its strictly functional value. During the 1500s it took on an aesthetic value with a formal quest for them to be thin in the shaft and with precious handles for materials and decoration. The 1600s saw an ornamental triumph with baroque handles or special workmanship.
The eighteenth century is the century in which the cane becomes a complement of elegance that dresses the European aristocracy but also initiates the diffusion and diversification in typology that is the basis of the enormous production characterized throughout the nineteenth century, where the production of this object changes radically from a purely manufacturing approach, retaining the decorative part, to the mass production of the first industrialization characterized by cheap materials. Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version)
During the twentieth century, the stylistic renewal created a simplified language of decoration, and stylizations took inspiration from the female figure and a repertoire of sinuous forms or drawn from nature typical of the Art Nouveau period. During the Deco period, more rigorous decoration became established, the canes became extremely elegant and linear, and the handles were geometric in shape. This is precisely the stick’s last extraordinary season: with the 1930s, new canons, new fashions and renewed lifestyles bring about the end of production. The walking stick, however, will find a new existence in the historical and collecting interest now reserved for them.
The walking stick can make use of a variety of materials, from ivory, a precious decoration material used through carving and carving, often employed in figurative handles to other techniques composed of simpler forms but decorated with silver. This technique is typical of work between the mid-17th century and the early 18th century.
For work of prestige and representation, gold is used for the handle in slender and elegant forms while silver dominates in the decorations that have always distinguished the traditional workings of chiseling and engraving especially coinciding with the period of Art Noveau, where predominant is the aesthetic characterized by references to nature, the female figure or stylistic figures with exotic features. Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version)
Wood is the most common material for making sticks in its entirety, and the art of carving is in fact one of the oldest artistic expressions that conforms it as an object of use. Porcelain arrived in Europe in the early eighteenth century and offered the possibility for its luster and decorative possibilities to surmount the sticks with realization of splendid handles.
Finally, the hard stones, from amber, to rock crystal, to various types of bone etc. are part of those materials used by the goldsmith’s art to embellish and decorate handles, especially in the early 20th century, with Fabergé’s extraordinary creations for the court of the Russian Tsars at the top.
Curious are the “accessorized” sticks that contain different kinds of things in the handle or shaft. While “transformable” canes are those equipped with mechanisms and systems that can transform the same into something “other” object of use.
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