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Catalog Data

Cast iron, paint
46 × 17 in. (116.8 × 43.2 cm)
Victorian (1837-1901)
Cast-iron fountain statuary of a boy and bird. The boy is nude, except for a belt with a swath of fabric tucked into the front and draped over one shoulder. A large bird with his wings aloft and head reared back is perched on the boy’s arm. The birds mouth is a spout that would spray water over the fountain. Fountain statuary generally reflected the tastes of the Victorians with naturalistic and historical references. Favorites often included birds, figures from Greek or Roman mythology, sea creatures, sentimentalized children, cherubs, and sea nymphs. Fountain and garden statuary flourished from 1890-1930 in America as sculptors used the opportunity to expand the market for their works.
Label Text:
In the nineteenth century, systems of mass production and growth of the cast iron industry made fountains accessible to wider audience, including the middle class, yet they remained a symbol of elegance and pretention. By the mid-nineteenth century, fountain components were mass produced. Cast-iron pieces were created by pouring molten iron into molds of compressed sand. Once the iron had cooled, it was removed from the mold. Rough places and sharp edges were then filed away before the piece was bolted together. It would then be painted, varnished, galvanized, or bronzed several times to prevent rust. Since cast iron pieces were made in components and bolted together, numerous combinations were possible. Consumers were able to select from a range of figures, basins, sprays, and pedestals to create a somewhat customized fountain. The Victorian taste for highly ornate was fulfilled by the malleability of metal, which allowed for every surface to be covered with ornamental patterns and botanical subjects. Designs followed the trends of the time with natural forms, ornamental motifs pulled from historic revival styles, and complicated shapes. This satisfied the nineteenth-century tendency to combine of styles, along with elaborate, often whimsical motifs were available through the numerous options for waterspouts, fountain figures, balusters, basins, and coping—molded edging—for fountains.
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Credit Line:
Smithsonian Gardens, Horticultural Artifacts Collection.
Accession number:
1984.012.a, b
Restrictions & Rights:
Usage conditions apply
See more items in:
Horticultural Artifacts Collection
Data Source:
Smithsonian Gardens