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Catalog Data

Ceramic, paint
11 × 9 3/4 in. (27.9 × 24.8 cm)
Planters (Ferneries)
Victorian (1837-1901)
Round ceramic planter painted black. The bottom portion of the planter is fluted and a swag motif is applied to the upper, smooth portion. Both of these design elements would have appealed to the Victorian interest in historical motifs that is characteristic of nineteenth-century designs. The most popular style of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century leading up to the Victorian era (1837-1901) was Neoclassicism. In America it has been called the American Empire style, Greek Revival, or Grecian style and was called Regency or Empire style in Europe. Neoclassicism was seen in painting, sculpture, furnishings, architecture, fashion, and even politics. This revival of classical taste was encouraged by the increased interest in classical, ancient, and antique forms inspired by recent excavations of in Italy, Greece, and Egypt. Neoclassicism pulled motifs, ornamentation, and forms from antiquity, as well as the Renaissance interpretation of the classical world. Elements of neoclassical design included fretwork, columns, palmettes, pilasters, acanthus leaves, tulips and lotus motifs, grotesque masks, processional reliefs, mythical creatures, laurel garlands, fruit swags, scrolls, tassels, fringe, passementerie, frieze decoration, lyres, and vases; as well as accurate depictions of flora, fauna, birds, and insects; and repeating patterns such as the Greek key and egg-and-dart. A characteristic of Neoclassical designs is strict symmetry of all the elements.
Label Text:
Since ancient Egyptian times, containers for plants, flowers, herbs, and edible plants have evolved according to the needs, fashions, and technology of the time. Through the centuries, these vessels have influenced the horticultural and aesthetic role of plants, and allowed for their cultivation, transportation, and display. The Industrial Revolution in the 1800s brought mechanization and mass production techniques that allowed a variety of eclectic plant containers to be produced cheaply and efficiently. Cast-iron, china, terra cotta, and wooden plant containers were readily available in variety of styles and sizes. These containers were placed both indoors and in the garden. With a long historical tradition of designs and styles of containers to draw on in the nineteenth century, Victorians grew their plants in a diverse collection of containers depending on the family’s income and taste.
Planters, sometimes called flower boxes or ferneries, are a type of container usually placed outdoors and used for growing and displaying live plants, flowers, herbs, or edible plants. They came in a wide range of dimensions and materials and could be highly decorative or plain and unpretentious. Like urns, planters were used in the Victorian garden to define spaces and direct the eye. They were placed to mark perimeters and frame vistas in large gardens, or when placed in small gardens, helped to better make use of the limited space. Depending on their size, design, and placement planters acted as simple accessories or principal features. These qualities appealed to the moderate budget of the middle class, who wanted to ornament their gardens but could not afford large, heavy sculptures of marble and lead.
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jardinières (containers)  Search this
planters (containers)  Search this
Garden ornaments and furniture  Search this
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