Outstanding example of an Antique 19th C Pen Wipe in the Rare Form of a Sand Dollar. The sand dollar itself is fashioned out of soft kid leather with the tiniest, almost invisible stitches around its perimeter, set on a piece of faded red wool, and attached to a sandwich of two layers of kid edged with blanket stitch embroidery (top and bottom) with two layers of black wool felt between.
Pen wipes are no longer familiar objects in our world of electronic everything, but there was a time when quill pens and then fountain pens required frequent wiping. Rags or plain cloth would do the job, but women of the day were resourceful, and created fanciful pieces to bring a little joy and delight to everyday life as well as perform a mundane task. I’m often amazed at the ingenious creativity and artistry invested into the making of these humble objects. Pen wipes like this are one-of-a-kind, unique, not store bought items like the more familiar metal animals we all see with straw set into them to absorb the ink. Many of these clever little desk items were fashioned as gifts, a thrifty women’s art that flourished along with quilt making and rug hooking, serving the creative, expressive needs of women as well as a practical need. Folk Art - absolutely.
There are many legends surrounding sand dollars, particularly in Christian lore. The five slits on its face represent the five wounds of Christ on the cross. The ‘Easter Lily’ design on the top with its center star resembles the Star of Bethlehem. And finally, when the sand dollar is broken by pressing on the middle of its shell, five tiny bones symbolizing the Doves of Peace are freed and released to bring peace to all corners of the world. I can’t be certain whether the maker was aware of all this, but symbolism aside, it’s a lovely design.
CONDITION is excellent antique. There is some surface dirt and the fabric is delicate, one black wool leaf has a small split at its edge which is unimportant and mentioned only for complete accuracy. Please look at the photographs. Measures approximately 3 ½” in diameter and is about ½” thick.
Recently pen wipes have performed very well at auction, with many bringing well into the four digits. As a collecting category, they are finally beginning to get the attention they deserve. And who could resist a pretty like this? Enjoy!