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Catalog Data

17 × 9 1/2 × 9 1/2 in. (43.2 × 24.1 × 24.1 cm)
Floral frames
ca. 1879-1962
Victorian (1837-1901)
Victory over death is rooted in the tenants of the Christian faith, and in the nineteenth century this concept was magnified. Death and eternity in heaven were seen as the victory of faithfulness. Symbols of victory reminded the Christian that whatever pain and suffering one may endure, they would come out on the other side into glory and heaven. In addition to symbolic shapes, references to victory were made through the “Language of Flowers” by using palm, laurel, or nasturtium. As they alluded to the reward at life’s end, set pieces in the form of victory symbols were especially suited to funerals, but they might also be used at other religious events and occasions. The cross and crown was a popular combination for flower frames in Christian funerals. This mourning iconography was meant to remind the survivors that after the trials and tribulation of life (the cross), the Christian dead would be rewarded in heaven (the crown). When combined with the cross, the crown also implied the sovereignty of the Lord and His power and authority. This symbol was also used to denote a member of the York Rite Masons.
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.
emblems (symbols)  Search this
Floral frames  Search this
frame components  Search this
wire  Search this
associations  Search this
ceremonies  Search this
crosses (objects)  Search this
crowns (costume components)  Search this
crowns (headdresses)  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:
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Horticultural Artifacts Collection
Data Source:
Smithsonian Gardens