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Catalog Data

J.L. Mott Iron Works  Search this
Cast iron, paint
Overall: 55 × 48 in. (139.7 × 121.9 cm)
Urn: 27 × 46 in. (68.6 × 116.8 cm)
Pedestal: 28 × 20 in. (71.1 × 50.8 cm)
New York, New York, United States
ca. 1875
Victorian (1837-1901)
Cast-iron urn in the “Warwick” pattern on a pedestal. Around the middle of the bowl are three heads of Sileni, the male attendants of Bacchus. There is also one female head. Between the heads are Thyrsi or Bacchic slaves twined round with ivy and vine shoots and Litni or Augural Wands used in making omens. The handles are formed of thick stylized interwoven vine branches from which tendrils, leaves, and clustering grapes spread under the upper rim. The bowl is supported by a short beaded and cuffed shank and fluted socle. Copies of famous antique urns were popular in the eighteenth and nineteenth century. This urn was made by J.L. Mott Iron Works in New York between 1858 and 1940. The neoclassical design was created to mimic a fourth century BCE marble vase found near the Roman Emperor Hadrian’s Villa in 1770 by Sir William Hamilton. The designer of the original urn has been attributed to the Greek artist, Lysippus of Sicyon. Hamilton sold the urn to his nephew, George, Second Earl of Warwick, and it was displayed at Warwick Castle, giving the urn its name. The urn sits on a round, cast-zinc pedestal with festoons of grapes beneath four lion heads with claws reaching downward between their heads. The base of the pedestal is octagonal.
Label Text:
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. In Europe in the eighteenth century, a single urn commemorating a person or even was a popular feature in picturesque or Romantic garden style. In America, urns have been a popular feature in the garden since the mid-nineteenth century. This was in part due to systems of mass production developed in the Industrial Revolution that allowed garden urns to be readily available and affordable to the public.
An urn originally referenced a funerary vessel for storing ashes; however, in the garden, an urn refers to a container usually in a classical form, which may be used to plant flowers. An urn generally indicates a large sculptural vessel with a wide mouth and a curved body on a smaller foot that stands on an independent base and may also have handles. Urns could be exclusively decorative or utilitarian, planted with shrubs, flowers, or ornamental varieties. Victorians debated whether to plant in these garden containers, but cast-iron urns were planted more than those made of stone or earthenware. Urns were often displayed in a similar fashion to sculptures, standing on a base or pedestal. They might be single, in pairs, or groups and could be admired as a single work of art or as part of a collective statement. Because urns were more affordable than statues and fountains but created the same visual impact, urns appealed to middle class and became one of the most popular garden ornaments of the nineteenth century. They were strategically placed as the focal point or an accessory to create a specific feeling for a setting. Garden urns 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.
J. L. Mott Iron Works
Maker's mark: J. L. Mott Iron Works, N. Y.
cast iron  Search this
Outdoor ornaments  Search this
pedestals  Search this
Style  Search this
urns  Search this
Design elements  Search this
Design elements  Search this
Design elements  Search this
Design elements  Search this
Garden ornaments and furniture  Search this
handles: finish hardware  Search this
Outdoor ornaments  Search this
Palmettes  Search this
planters (containers)  Search this
Credit Line:
Smithsonian Gardens, Horticultural Artifacts Collection. Gift from Mr. and Mrs. Lee M. Folger and the Folger Fund.
Accession number:
Restrictions & Rights:
Usage conditions apply
See more items in:
Horticultural Artifacts Collection
Data Source:
Smithsonian Gardens