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Catalog Data

Medium:
Ceramic, glaze, plate glass
Dimensions:
10 1/2 × 18 × 9 1/2 in. (26.7 × 45.7 × 24.1 cm)
Style:
Rustic
Type:
Aquariums
Glass gardens
Date:
ca.1830-1920
Period:
Victorian (1837-1901)
Description:
Ceramic aquarium in the Rustic style. The tank is set on four legs, with each framing device meant to resemble a log with branches freshly removed, as indicated by beige and brown ring marks. Despite the use of the Rustic style, which derives its charm from the irregularity of nature, the design for this aquarium is entirely symmetrical. Originally a simple glass container, these cases evolved to suit the Victorian taste for decoration. They were made in all shapes, sizes, and styles, such as Gothic Revival, Neo-Grec, Rococo Revival, and Rustic. Cases were often finished with gilding or enamel, as suited to the design and budget of home, and could be made to look like miniature buildings such as churches and famous houses. Often placed on their own decorative stand, these cases became status symbols of the fashionable drawing room. Rustic style was immensely popular in the Victorian era, and the height of its popularity occurred between 1840 and 1890. Rustic objects share a common aesthetic of being artfully assembled with materials harvested directly from nature to create a variety of furnishings and decorative objects for the home and garden. Rustic furnishings and accessories were thought to be especially suited to the garden, as they blended in with the natural landscapes. Rustic materials and motifs include tree branches, twigs, roots, burls, bark, pinecones, acorns, seashells, animal horns, and antlers. Rustic designs were often constructed from found objects or were cast or carved to appear like these articles. Rustic objects were usually irregular and asymmetrical to mimic the forms that would occur in nature. Rustic designs could be made following instructions in contemporary publications, but the popularity of the style led to the mass production of Rustic style pieces.
Rustic style was immensely popular in the Victorian era, and the height of its popularity occurred between 1840 and 1890. Rustic objects share a common aesthetic of being artfully assembled with materials harvested directly from nature to create a variety of furnishings and decorative objects for the home and garden. Rustic furnishings and accessories were thought to be especially suited to the garden, as they blended in with the natural landscapes. Rustic materials and motifs include tree branches, twigs, roots, burls, bark, pinecones, acorns, seashells, animal horns, and antlers. Rustic designs were often constructed from found objects or were cast or carved to appear like these articles. Rustic objects were usually irregular and asymmetrical to mimic the forms that would occur in nature. Rustic designs could be made following instructions in contemporary publications, but the popularity of the style led to the mass production of Rustic style pieces.
Label Text:
In the mid-1800s, interest in marine and fresh water life soared, which led to the development and widespread popularity of aquariums for the home. Aquariums served as fish tanks or small ornamental fountains in the Victorian home. They might contain wild plants and creatures combined with ferns and fountain feature. Some aquariums were salt-water, providing a glimpse of ocean life, but the majority were fresh-water aquariums. The large plate-glass windows gave a panoramic view of an underwater world and earned the aquarium a place of prominence in many homes. Books and articles were written with instructions on creating and maintaining parlor aquariums, as well as what forms of plant and animal life to stock in it. Water plants and animals were often transplanted from the wild to the drawing room to recreate an encapsulated living world. Victorians watched the antics, growing cycles, and symbiotic relationships that flourished within their parlor aquarium. Soon every home wanted an aquarium and, with price cutting innovations of the Industrial Revolution, many homes could now afford one. Because of their popularity, aquariums were mass produced in a variety of materials and sizes, and they were frequently combined with a Wardian case, bird cage, or plant stand to form a large showpiece for the parlors or conservatories of the mid-to-late-nineteenth century. Aquariums created an ostentatious display that provided an escape from the city and were evidence of the owner’s social superiority and interests in natural history. The household aquarium was a source of entertainment, but it also afforded Victorians with opportunity to for scientific study of the plants and creatures behind the glass.
Topic:
aquariums (containers)  Search this
case furniture  Search this
cases (containers)  Search this
ceramic  Search this
ferneries (greenhouses)  Search this
glass  Search this
plate glass  Search this
terrariums  Search this
Wardian cases  Search this
Garden ornaments and furniture  Search this
indoor gardening  Search this
Rustic  Search this
Victoriana  Search this
Credit Line:
Smithsonian Gardens, Horticultural Artifacts Collection.
Accession number:
1981.001
Restrictions & Rights:
CC0
See more items in:
Horticultural Artifacts Collection
Data Source:
Smithsonian Gardens
GUID:
http://n2t.net/ark:/65665/aq421e53793-cb50-449e-ad5c-6cf8ada9d2ee
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:hac_1981.001