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Catalog Data

Medium:
Wire
Dimensions:
15 × 15 × 1 1/2 in. (38.1 × 38.1 × 3.8 cm)
Type:
Floral frames
Date:
ca. 1879-1962
Period:
Victorian (1837-1901)
Description:
The sickle flower frame was a popular funeral tribute, and one of the more recognizable symbols of death. As such, it was not appropriate for everyone. This design was an inexpensive option for the funeral because it did not require many flowers to achieve the shape. A few sprigs of wheat were often included, as if they had just been cut by the blade. The sheaf was made of the stabilized, dried grasses known as “everlastings,” many of which were imported from Italy. The sheaf of wheat also implied a rich harvest and plenty. The concept of the harvest saw the sickle flower frame frequently combined with a sheaf of wheat. Signifying both death and the harvest-cycle, the sickle and sheaf implied self-renewal. Though cutting the stalk meant certain death, spreading the seeds from the ear guaranteed new life, making this design symbolic of death and hope. It was also symbolic of a long and fruitful life, hence the saying “ripe old age.” This design was also only suitable for the elderly because they had opportunity to create a life well-lived; whereas for those who had died in youth, such a symbol only implied what the deceased had been denied. The harvest was a popular theme for funeral sermons, and the “Harvest Hymn” was frequently sung at the funeral services for the elderly. These designs were often taken home after the funeral and framed for a lasting tribute in the home. The sickle was also a mortality symbol. It is an attribute to both Death and Time. This connection came from the European tradition and carried over to New World. Death and Time, known to destroy all things, used the sickle as one of the “weapons of death” along with the ax, bow and arrow, lance, trident, and sword. This symbol, like death, brought all things down to the same level. It could be an instrument of punishment, choosing its victims, or a blind instrument, striking indiscriminately at all living things.
The sickle was also a mortality symbol. It is an attribute to both Death and Time. This connection came from the European tradition and carried over to New World. Death and Time, known to destroy all things, used the sickle as one of the “weapons of death” along with the ax, bow and arrow, lance, trident, and sword. This symbol, like death, brought all things down to the same level. It could be an instrument of punishment, choosing its victims, or a blind instrument, striking indiscriminately at all living things.
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
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
secret societies  Search this
societies  Search this
symbols  Search this
wirework  Search this
Credit Line:
Smithsonian Gardens, Horticultural Artifacts Collection. Gift of H. Weber & Sons Company.
Accession number:
1979.011.064
Restrictions & Rights:
CC0
See more items in:
Horticultural Artifacts Collection
Data Source:
Smithsonian Gardens
GUID:
http://n2t.net/ark:/65665/aq4956583c5-87f3-486f-a2cb-a6f670eb9e5d
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:hac_1979.011.064