Skip to main content Smithsonian Institution

Catalog Data

Medium:
Cast iron, paint
Dimensions:
31 × 35 × 18 in. (78.7 × 88.9 × 45.7 cm)
Style:
Rustic
Type:
Settees
Date:
ca.1850-1920
Period:
Victorian (1837-1901)
Description:
Cast-iron settee in the “Rustic” or “Twig” pattern. This bench imitates the wooden furniture found in nineteenth-century naturalistic gardens. Cast iron eliminated the need to search for the necessary tree branches to complete the design and offered more structural integrity. The design consists of dried oak branches with a few remaining leaves that have been laid asymmetrically and bound together with cords to form the back, seat, and arms. On the stretcher between the front and back legs are a pair of intertwined serpents coiled around the legs nibbling at oak leaves below the seat. This design disregarded comfort in favor of achieving the Rustic aesthetic. Frequently, the seat and backrest were replaced by wooden boards to make it more comfortable. McDowall, Steven & Co. in Glasgow is attributed as the creator of this design in the early 1840s. It quickly made its way across the Atlantic and became on the most popular designs in cast iron. The Rustic pattern was cast by at least twelve American foundries with only minor variations in the armrests, length of the seats, and cordage used to tie the branches. 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:
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.
Topic:
cast iron  Search this
outdoor furniture  Search this
settees  Search this
Garden ornaments and furniture  Search this
garden seats  Search this
Rustic  Search this
seating furniture  Search this
Credit Line:
Smithsonian Gardens, Horticultural Artifacts Collection.
Accession number:
1984.109
Restrictions & Rights:
Usage conditions apply
See more items in:
Horticultural Artifacts Collection
Data Source:
Smithsonian Gardens
GUID:
http://n2t.net/ark:/65665/aq4463c058e-ccfa-499b-a979-d306130f4f80
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:hac_1984.109