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Victorian Basketry Napkin Ring (Wabanaki)


This is a beautiful example of a small Victorian era Wabanaki basket. The orange color and the beautiful small curls with the large decorative bow were all favored design elements of that time. Due to the presence of braided tidal sweetgrass I believe this was either Passamaquoddy or Penobscot made. Since I have seen more large "bows" on Passamaquoddy Victorian era baskets, I think it most likely Passamaquoddy. Wabanaki - a confederacy of 5 NE woodland tribes living in what is now Maine, Vermont and SouthEastern Canada - The Abenaki, Maliseet, Micmac (Mi'kmaq is the Canadian spelling), Passamaquoddy and Penobscot.

This basket is 2.25" in diameter (including the top/bottom curls) and 2" high. The double loop ribbon bow is 2.5" long and 1" high. It is made of orange dyed brown ash splints and has alternating splint and braided tidal sweetgrass weavers around the ring. The curls and the bow are made of orange dyed ash splints. Brown ash is the traditional basketry material of the Wabanaki basketmakers. Tidal sweet grass was used at times to cover basket and lid rims, and braided tidal sweetgrass was added to some baskets as a decorative element - or used for the weavers of the entire basket. Braided tidal sweetgrass was/is more used by the Passamaquoddy and the Penobscot as it was/is more readily available to them due to the locations where they lived/live.

In the 10's of thousands of antique and current Wabanaki baskets I have bought/sold/collected/appraised and viewed in museum and private collections - I have come across a very few Wabanaki basket napkin rings; less than 25 I'd say. Of the ones I have seen - this is by far the most elaborate (and most beautiful).

There are a few small "dings"/tiny missing bits on 7 of the 38 curls. - I show these in photos. These are all together - with the bow displayed in front and side w/those curls placed on the bottom - this will display as perfect. One large loop on the outer end has a bit broken off, it is above those dinged curls and would also be on bottom if dinged curls are on bottom. (I have shown this on top in photos so you can see damage) It would be not that noticeable when displayed that way.....While I try to list perfect vintage baskets, I am listing this because it is unique and quite lovely even with it's slight imperfections.

Victorian Napkin Ring
Victorian Napkin Ring, back
Victorian Napkin Ring, side
Victorian Napkin Ring, side w/dime
Weight: 8 oz