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Catalog Data

Cast iron, paint
33 1/2 × 16 1/4 in. (85.1 × 41.3 cm)
Gothic Revival
Victorian (1837-1901)
Cast-iron and wood bench with star motif. The bench consists of two wooden slats for the back and two for the seat, which are bolted to the cast-iron bench ends. The bench ends feature a stylized fleur-de-lis in the armrest and an eight-pointed star or wheel-spokes pattern in the lower portion. The legs of the bench are splayed with acanthus leaf sabots on the feet. Benches for public spaces were usually less ornamented than those made for private gardens and were frequently made with this type of seat.
Label Text:
Garden furnishings, also called outdoor or patio furnishings, are specifically designed for outdoor use. They are typically made of weather-resistant materials such as metal, stone, wood, wicker, and artificial stone. Cast-iron was the most popular material for garden furnishings and accessories from the mid-nineteenth to the early-twentieth century. This was in part due to systems of mass production developed in the Industrial Revolution that allowed outdoor furniture to be readily available and affordable to the public. Throughout the nineteenth century, as leisure activities increased, materials diversified, and technology was embraced, garden furnishings came to be regarded as domestic amenities and reflected changing styles. Outdoor furnishings, such as settees, chairs, fountains, urns, and tables were essential to fashionably appointed lawns, conservatories, parks, cemeteries, and gardens in America.
The garden in the nineteenth century, typical of Victorian style, tended to be excessively ornamental and complex, combining colors, textures, and materials through plants and garden ornaments. Garden furnishings, such as urns, plant stands, tables, and seating, became essential to the overall design. As an extension of the house, the garden required furniture, and outdoor seating found its way onto balconies, verandahs, and porches as well as across lawns and parks. Settees, which are two-person seats with a backrest and arms, were a popular feature of the Victorian garden. Most garden settees were designed to be suitable for use with a table and were frequently sold with matching suites of chairs, benches, and tables. Designs for garden settees followed the Victorian taste for eclectic styles and borrowed Classical, Rustic, Gothic, Rococo, Renaissance, and Oriental motifs; or they were chosen to blend with their natural surroundings in Rustic, animal, or botanical forms. Settees and other furnishings were strategically placed as the focal point or an accessory to create a specific feeling for a setting. They were used on porches and verandahs, as well as throughout the garden, to extend the architecture of the house to the grounds, providing a link between art and nature, manmade and organic. Cast-iron, wrought-iron, and wirework settees were mostly for use in the garden although some designs were suited for indoor use as well.
cast iron  Search this
outdoor furniture  Search this
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Garden ornaments and furniture  Search this
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Credit Line:
Smithsonian Gardens, Horticultural Artifacts Collection.
Accession number:
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Usage conditions apply
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Horticultural Artifacts Collection
Data Source:
Smithsonian Gardens