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Catalog Data

Medium:
Earthenware
Dimensions:
Base: 24 1/2 × 12 in. (62.2 × 30.5 cm)
Basin: 3 1/4 × 24 1/2 in. (8.3 × 62.2 cm)
Style:
Empire
Type:
Birdbaths
Date:
ca.1830-1920
Period:
Victorian (1837-1901)
Description:
Swan birdbath made from cast earthenware. The birdbath features three swan heads with only the wing portion of their bodies among cattails on a circular base. The post is formed from tined, concentric circles. A shallow basin on the top would hold a small pool of water. Swans were a popular motif of the Empire style in France, and also appealed to the Victorian love of nature. 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. Naturalism, the realistic reproduction of the beauties of nature, was also 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.
Naturalism, the realistic reproduction of the beauties of nature, was also 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:
Birdbaths are essentially artificial puddles, which are usually created with a shallow water-filled basin atop small tazza-form fountains, pedestals, sculptures, or other garden ornaments. They are a flexible garden feature and can be found placed in formal settings such as a geometric garden, as well as informal settings. They are often placed on the edge of the landscape where they may be viewed from a window, so the visitors may be watched and the owners can enjoy their antics. The addition of a birdbath attracts many different species of birds to drink, bathe, and cool themselves. Small animals and useful insects are also frequenters of this garden feature. When part of an overall garden setting they offer "micro-habitat" support together with the natural nectar and food from surrounding plants, shrubs, trees, and feeders. Birdbaths can also provide a reliable source of water, especially during dry summer months and periods of drought. Birdbaths have been a popular feature in the garden dating back to ancient times. The Victorian interest in the natural sciences made birdbaths a very popular garden feature. They were added to home and public spaces to create vital wildlife gardens, which would attract many species that could be studied and enjoyed.
Topic:
birdbaths  Search this
ceramic and ceramic products  Search this
earthenware  Search this
Design elements  Search this
Garden ornaments and furniture  Search this
water features  Search this
Credit Line:
Smithsonian Gardens, Horticultural Artifacts Collection.
Accession number:
1988.008.a, b, c
Restrictions & Rights:
Usage conditions apply
See more items in:
Horticultural Artifacts Collection
Data Source:
Smithsonian Gardens
GUID:
http://n2t.net/ark:/65665/aq4dd1b10f4-c1fe-4204-8d03-56b0f4e26397
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:hac_1988.008.a__b__c