This is a most unusual French antique, dating to the 19th Century. It is made of bronze and used to hold calling or visiting cards.
As was the custom during the 19th Century, callers presented their cards to the servant who answered the door and were then escorted into the home to be received by the master or mistress of the house. Many forms of trays, usually made of silver or porcelain were used to hold the cards. This bronze version is new to me. It looks like a small standing bronze easel and the base resembles a ship's anchor with the addition of a a central ship's wheel. At the center of the wheel there is a plaque with the French word "VISITES". This plaque can open to allow calling cards to be placed inside in either of two compartments. Just delightful.
The piece stands 8 1/4" high and is 5" wide. The condition is good for its age, but it looks like three of the outside spokes are missing from the wheel. These are located on the side and bottom and do not really distract from the overall appearance. The bronze has a deep patina, as can be expected of this antique. Perhaps this was used on a ship, or in some sea captain's home. A rare and unusual piece from another time and place.
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Antiques and whimsies from a gentler age.