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Catalog Data

Cast iron
19 × 6 1/2 × 2 in. (48.3 × 16.5 × 5.1 cm)
ca. 1850-1920
Victorian (1837-1901)
Cast-iron fragment from a settee (possibly) featuring a fox face and elaborate scrolls and foliage. Naturalism, the realistic reproduction of the beauties of nature, was a popular style in the Victorian era. Though it appears as early as the 1840’s in America, naturalistic designs continued to the 1900s. This was in part due to the influence of the natural sciences, and interest in nature and gardening, which spread through the upper and middle classes in the nineteenth century. Naturalistic designs incorporated floral, foliate, fruit, vegetal, and animal forms into furnishings and decorative objects for the home and garden. Popular subjects included grapes, cornstalks, ferns, Solomon seal or laurel leaf, passion flowers, lilies of the valley, morning glories, oak leaves, acorns, vines, and roses.
Label Text:
The advances of the nineteenth century, made cast iron readily available, cheap, durable, and able to be formed in any desired shape beginning in the 1830s in the United States, though it was well underway sooner in Europe. Cast iron manufacture became one of the most important American industries of the mid-nineteenth century, effecting transportation, decorative arts, and technology. While the strength and durability of cast iron made it well suited to garden furnishings, which faced changing weather and heavy use, cast iron’s weak tensile strength made it fracture rather than bending or distorting.
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Credit Line:
Smithsonian Gardens, Horticultural Artifacts Collection.
Accession number:
Restrictions & Rights:
Usage conditions apply
See more items in:
Horticultural Artifacts Collection
Data Source:
Smithsonian Gardens