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Catalog Data

Medium:
Wire
Dimensions:
48 × 17 × 17 in. (121.9 × 43.2 × 43.2 cm)
Type:
Floral frames
Date:
ca. 1879-1962
Period:
Victorian (1837-1901)
Description:
Some of the most popular designs in funeral flowers in the late nineteenth century were those that appealed to the sentimentality of the period. These flower frame designs were both more decorative and more personal in their references. Sentimental designs alluded to lives cut short and the loss of cherished relationships. The broken column was one of the most popular and poignant symbols in floral designs and mourning iconography in the nineteenth century and was also seen in the cemetery, in mourning art, and in sentimental literature. It was symbolic of the end of life, and more specifically the unfinished work and frustrated hopes brought by a life cut short. It could be used in the funeral of a proactive figure in society to emblemize their deeds that must now go undone. It was also commonly seen at the funerals of young persons to express the frustrated hopes and broken dreams that bereaved parents felt over the loss of a child. The idea of dashed expectations by a life cut off was essential to the theme of the Broken Column. It usually ranged in height from two to six feet, and a common inscription for this design, as well as for the broken wheel, was “Broken Hopes.” As an unbroken column, the set piece had different connotations. It was used as a tribute to the lives of prominent members of the community because columns, or pillars, in architecture are essential to the structure as supporting elements and ensure the stability and strength of the whole. Therefore, it was appropriate for the pillars society to be remembered with a pillar in a flower frame. Whether broken or intact, the visual impact of this design contributed to its popularity.
As an unbroken column, the set piece had different connotations. It was used as a tribute to the lives of prominent members of the community because columns, or pillars, in architecture are essential to the structure as supporting elements and ensure the stability and strength of the whole. Therefore, it was appropriate for the pillars society to be remembered with a pillar in a flower frame. Whether broken or intact, the visual impact of this design contributed to its popularity.
Label Text:
Set pieces or set designs were among the most popular floral arrangements in the second half of the nineteenth century. The term set piece is a usually applied to designs in a wide variety of forms, which are often symbolic in character. Shapes that expressed an overall theme for an occasion were very fashionable, such as designs made to depict the profession, associations, or hobbies of an individual. These flower arrangements were ordered for special celebrations, holidays, weddings, and funerals. Typical of the Victorian style, these designs were elaborate and massive, but unlike other forms of flower arrangement, the set piece was exclusively made by the professional florist.
Set pieces were usually made up on wire frames in the desired shape, which acted as a foundation for the floral arrangement. Commercially produced, heavy-gaged wire frames, fabricated from either plain or copper-plated wire, became available for flower arrangements between 1860 and 1864. The retail florist business was enhanced considerably by the high demand for arrangements on flower frames in the nineteenth century, and wire frames quickly became the basis of the retail florist’s inventory. The frames could be obtained for little cost to the florist, and if he managed to retrieve the skeleton after the occasion, it could be reused. Wire frames came in both straight and curved outlines and either as a box (three-dimensional frame) or flat frame. Most designs came in several sizes and could be hung or placed on a stand or were free-standing. Standard forms in wire works catalogues ranged in size from 10 to 60 inches. Outside of the standard frame designs offered in wireworks and florist’s supplies catalogues, designs could be made for almost any occasion, with some large enough to make life-sized reproductions.
Over the course of the nineteenth and twentieth century floral fashions changed. Some set pieces faded in popularity by the early 1900s, but some remained favorites well into the 1940’s. Many of these same designs are still used today, but the wire frames have been replaced by shapes made from more modern materials to save the florists’ time in making up the arrangement, as well as providing water to the flowers allowing for greater longevity.
Topic:
emblems (symbols)  Search this
Floral frames  Search this
frame components  Search this
wire  Search this
associations  Search this
ceremonies  Search this
columns (architectural elements)  Search this
decorations  Search this
Floral Accessories  Search this
Floral decorations  Search this
floral designers  Search this
Flower arrangement  Search this
funerals  Search this
funerary objects  Search this
symbols  Search this
wirework  Search this
Credit Line:
Smithsonian Gardens, Horticultural Artifacts Collection. Gift of H. Weber & Sons Company.
Accession number:
1979.011.012
Restrictions & Rights:
CC0
See more items in:
Horticultural Artifacts Collection
Data Source:
Smithsonian Gardens
GUID:
http://n2t.net/ark:/65665/aq49b812229-e825-43b6-aced-e7349b76afcc
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:hac_1979.011.012