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Catalog Data

Cast iron, paint
33 × 21 in. (83.8 × 53.3 cm)
Renaissance Revival
ca. 1880
Victorian (1837-1901)
Pair of birdbaths in cast iron. Each birdbath is in the form of a classical putto holding a large shell overhead. This shell forms the basin for the water. The boy stands on an octagonal shaped plinth that elevates this garden feature. One of the birdbaths has a matte finish, while the other has a glossy finish. The major characteristics of the art, architecture, and decorative arts produced in nineteenth century are historicism, eclecticism, and mixing multiple styles together. Renaissance Revival style was a popular style of the Victorian era in the United States. It emerged as early as the 1840s and experienced renewed interest in 1890s. Renaissance Revival was a continuation of the Neoclassicism of the early nineteenth century and was vaguely related to actual objects from the Renaissance period. Renaissance Revival motifs included scrolling foliage called rinceaux, fruit garlands, masks, satyrs, egg-and-dart decoration, friezes, putti, armorial shields, palmettes, scrolls, grotesques, lions, water plant motifs, anthemia, oval medallions, bosses and strapwork, dolphins, Caryatid figures, and architectural elements such as columns, pilasters, pediments, and cornices.
Label Text:
Birdbaths are essentially artificial puddles, which are usually created with a shallow water-filled basin atop small tazza-form fountains, pedestals, sculptures, or other garden ornaments. They are a flexible garden feature and can be found placed in formal settings such as a geometric garden, as well as informal settings. They are often placed on the edge of the landscape where they may be viewed from a window, so the visitors may be watched and the owners can enjoy their antics. The addition of a birdbath attracts many different species of birds to drink, bathe, and cool themselves. Small animals and useful insects are also frequenters of this garden feature. When part of an overall garden setting they offer "micro-habitat" support together with the natural nectar and food from surrounding plants, shrubs, trees, and feeders. Birdbaths can also provide a reliable source of water, especially during dry summer months and periods of drought. Birdbaths have been a popular feature in the garden dating back to ancient times. The Victorian interest in the natural sciences made birdbaths a very popular garden feature. They were added to home and public spaces to create vital wildlife gardens, which would attract many species that could be studied and enjoyed.
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Credit Line:
Smithsonian Gardens, Horticultural Artifacts Collection.
Accession number:
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Usage conditions apply
See more items in:
Horticultural Artifacts Collection
Data Source:
Smithsonian Gardens