Hand-carved from walnut in France, circa 1880, this unusual inkwell features foliate and floral motifs. A flip-top lid adorned with a pair of bas relief flowers tops the central pen box, whose frontage is graced by a delicately incised floral motif. Two highly detailed receptacles flank the box, with a wicker basket on the right and a foliate block on the left. The wicker basket, which is embellished with spiral fluting and beading has a large opening, most likely for a glass inkwell. There is a small opening in the top of the foliate block, indicating this was used to house a pen or pencil when not in use.
In front of the pen box is a shallow tray that would have been a resting place for the quill, as indicated by the light staining. The tray has spiral fluted edges surrounding an interior festooned with carvings of stacked wood beneath two large leaves. All sides have been carved with sprawling volute rinceaux bordered by incised dots.
Our 19th century carved walnut inkwell is a unique accessory and would make a great addition to any office desk or writing table. It can also function as a small storage compartment (a vide-poche in French) for everyday items such as keys, money clip or loose change.
CONDITION: Wear commensurate to age and use with minor stains, buildup, and age separations. The basket carving most likely had a glass reservoir, which has been lost.