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Catalog Data

William Adams & Company  Search this
Cast iron, paint
38 1/2 × 35 1/2 × 20 in. (97.8 × 90.2 × 50.8 cm)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
ca. 1890
Victorian (1837-1901)
Cast-iron urn in the “Adams” style on pedestal. The vase has a band of lanceolate leaves on a circular collared socle (foot) mounted on a base with festoon and bow knot motif. The handles are Ancient Greek style with fretting with a floral motif on top. The two perforated handles curve upward above rim. The urn is elevated on pedestal with decorative festoons. Festoon and bow knot motifs are a hanging loop of any combination of fruit, vegetables, leaves, flowers and shells suspended from architectural friezes or ornamental forms such as bosses or moldings. Often used in Renaissance or neoclassical decoration. The major characteristics of the art, architecture, and decorative arts produced in nineteenth century are historicism, eclecticism, and mixing multiple styles together. Renaissance Revival style was a popular style of the Victorian era in the United States. It emerged as early as the 1840s and experienced renewed interest in 1890s. Renaissance Revival was a continuation of the Neoclassicism of the early nineteenth century and was vaguely related to actual objects from the Renaissance period. Renaissance Revival motifs included scrolling foliage called rinceaux, fruit garlands, masks, satyrs, egg-and-dart decoration, friezes, putti, armorial shields, palmettes, scrolls, grotesques, lions, water plant motifs, anthemia, oval medallions, bosses and strapwork, dolphins, Caryatid figures, and architectural elements such as columns, pilasters, pediments, and cornices.
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.
W. Adams and Co., Philadelphia, PA
Inscription: W. Adams & Co. Philadelphia, PA.
cast iron  Search this
Outdoor ornaments  Search this
pedestals  Search this
urns  Search this
Garden ornaments and furniture  Search this
handles: finish hardware  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:
1987.019.001.a, b, c
Restrictions & Rights:
Usage conditions apply
See more items in:
Horticultural Artifacts Collection
Data Source:
Smithsonian Gardens