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Catalog Data

Cast iron, paint
12 × 5 in. (30.5 × 12.7 cm)
Elizabethan Revival
Victorian (1837-1901)
Ball shaped-finial adorned with ornamental patterns. This cast iron finial was possibly for a hitching post. The major characteristics of the art, architecture, and decorative arts produced in nineteenth century are historicism, eclecticism, and mixing multiple styles together. Romanticism and interest in the past led to revivals of the styles, ornamentation, and motifs of the past, and throughout the Victorian era there was a rapid succession of confused style revivals competing at the same time. Interest in the unique and novel, rather than accuracy and perfection, led to mixtures from Classical, Baroque, Rococo, Renaissance, and Gothic in eclectic combinations. Rather than copy specific objects, motifs and forms were adapted to suggest the impressions and associations of an idealized version of the past. The Revival styles are not reflective of their times and are inconsistently applied, often resulting in styles attributed by the majority or primary elements.
Label Text:
A finial is a decorative feature on the top or end of an object or structure. These ornamental devices were usually made of stone or iron. In the Victorian era, the love of ornamentation often led to the widespread application of finials in all their variations and manifestations as an adjunct to architecture and design. Smaller finials, often made of metal or wood were used as decorative devices on the tops or ends of poles, rods, furnishings and decorative arts objects. Flag poles, curtain rods, bed posts, clocks, and silver services were all popular locations for finials to appear. Larger finials, particularly those with a great deal of detailing such as pineapples, could stand alone in planting or upon a pedestal to raise them up a foot or two for visibility. Large finials also appeared atop monumental gateposts or on architecture to highlight the tops of domes, spires, towers, roofs, gable, or the corner or a building or structure. Finial designs created the first impression of a visitor to the estate or garden. Impressive posts capped with monumental finials were carefully chosen to embellish entries and raise the standard of the house. In addition to their decorative effects, finials were functional as well. They often top gateway posts to allow rain and snow to shed off quickly without much buildup. This greatly reduces the amount of water that seeps downward to saturate the core of the post.
cast iron  Search this
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Garden ornaments and furniture  Search this
hitching posts  Search this
Credit Line:
Smithsonian Gardens, Horticultural Artifacts Collection.
Accession number:
Restrictions & Rights:
Usage conditions apply
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Horticultural Artifacts Collection
Data Source:
Smithsonian Gardens