Skip to main content Smithsonian Institution

Catalog Data

J.L. Mott Iron Works  Search this
Cast iron, paint
50 × 49 × 22 in. (127 × 124.5 × 55.9 cm)
New York, New York, United States
ca. 1850-1920
Victorian (1837-1901)
Cast-iron urn and pedestal in the “Flower and Leaf Vase on Crane Pedestal” pattern. Multiple foundries (including The J.L. Mott Iron Works and J.W. Fiske Iron Works) manufactured design variations of this urn in the late nineteenth century by modifying the basin, pedestal, or base. The shallow tazza-shaped bowl is cast with acanthus leaves at the bottom and on the rim. The short shank, circled by a foliate band, is raised on a crane base. The pedestal is formed by three cranes atop leaves with cattails behind them forming the shaft. The pedestal sits on a circular base. Two ornate scrolled handles are attached to the urn. 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 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.
The J. L. Mott Ironworks NY
Inscription: J. L. Mott Iron Works, N.Y.
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:
Restrictions & Rights:
Usage conditions apply
See more items in:
Horticultural Artifacts Collection
Data Source:
Smithsonian Gardens