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Catalog Data

Cast iron, paint
51 × 32 in. (129.5 × 81.3 cm)
Rococo Revival
ca. 1856
Victorian (1837-1901)
Cast-iron gate, probably for cemetery, with the Eye of God and a figure. The design features scrolls and a festoon around a medallion in which a barefoot child is seated in the melancholy pose with his head resting in his hand. This pose is seen throughout the fine arts and is indicative of sensitivity, gloom, mourning, and loneliness. This is counterbalanced by the Eye of God in a cloud with rays of light appearing above him, which symbolized the all-knowing nature of God and suggesting that He is watching over the boy, even directing him. Over the gate is a crest of scrolls flanking a prominent bouquet.
Label Text:
Cemeteries held a very important place in the lives of nineteenth century Americans. Rural cemeteries—such as Mount Auburn, organized in Boston in 1831 and Spring Grove in Cincinnati, Ohio, founded in 1845—were an integral part of American life. Cemeteries were beautifully landscaped and functioned much like a park. These retreats offered escape from the unpleasant conditions of the growing industrial centers. Families often planned special days, including a picnic, which were spent with their dear departed loved ones. The gravesites were elaborately landscaped and fitted out with furniture, fencing, and other accessories such as urns and statuary. Many of these pieces were the same designs and acquired from the same sources as the pieces chosen for the lawn and conservatory. Furniture manufacturers found a profitable market selling their wares as memorials. Identical styles were advertised and sold to furnish cemetery plots.
By the middle of the nineteenth century, fencing was often used to surround a plot or group of plots from one family, and they were paired with elaborate gates. Cemetery gates were both functional and decorative and were adorned with all the symbols of loss and mourning or fashionable revival style motifs of the Victorian age. The name of the family or person was immortalized in iron on the plot enclosures next to symbolic elements and decorative motifs. Cast iron was a popular material for these due to its durability, affordability, and the decorative possibilities of these pieces. It was usually paired with an iron fence; however, it was not unheard of to find cast iron gates with wood or stone fencing.
Inscription: DESIGN/ PATENTED 1856.
cast iron  Search this
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cemeteries  Search this
Garden ornaments and furniture  Search this
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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