As with the finest of folk art objects, this example from WWI Denmark would have involved much time and thought even though the work itself is of course roughly amateurish. All inlays were done using extremely colorful Green abalone shell (Haliotis fulgens) originating in the shallow coastal waters of Southern California or the upper Baja peninsula.
The second largest of the 36 items depicted is almost certainly a German gunboat having a gun turret at both bow and stern, dating this piece to c.1914-1918 even though the brush itself might be older. Denmark was at this time a neutral country (adjacent to Germany), so two well-supplied hospital camps were established there in 1917 where sick and wounded from both sides (Germany and Russia) could be transferred from their POW camps.
The largest, and central, inlay is of a traditional Danish/Scandinavian structure with an X-braced wall and flying a small flag, and a woman about to enter the front door (perhaps a nurse entering one of the area's permanent hospital facilities?). The amazing assortment of inlays include: drill brace, axe, hammer, wood-carving mallet, Derringer-style pistol, skeleton key, dagger, high-top woman's shoe, horse-shoe, meat grinder, Lone Ranger style eye mask, cross, star, crescent moon, 2 triangles, 2 diamonds, heart, man's head, bust of bearded man, flounder, fur seal (second down from the horse-shoe, and a traditional game animal in Denmark), elk head with stubby racks (?), bird (?), two pewter or lead designs, the initials "JRC", and several more we'll leave it up to you to figure out!
8 1/4" x 2 1/2" x 1 3/4", in mahogany wood arched on top and having a straight flute finger grip to each side. The black boar bristles have the word "PURE" spelled out in blond bristles (probably not a moral declaration as much as an assurance that the bristles are purely natural rather than synthetic!). Condition is excellent with no damage other than gentle wear, and the bristles not brittle or shedding.
A great piece, presenting a lot of history to think about!
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Specialists in Mother of Pearl (M.O.P.) and other nacreous shell, both artifacts and raw materials.
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