Skip to main content Smithsonian Institution

Catalog Data

Medium:
Wire
Dimensions:
14 × 9 1/2 × 8 in. (35.6 × 24.1 × 20.3 cm)
Type:
Floral frames
Date:
ca. 1860-1940
Period:
Victorian (1837-1901)
Description:
In mourning symbolism, symbols of rest and peace were popular and consoling options. The pillow was symbolic of comfort, peace, and rest. Because of its domestic connotations, it was also indicative of family and home. Historically, this frame design was one of the most popular set pieces, and it was considered appropriate for all ages and genders. The most frequently used frame size was 16 x 24 inches. While the form of the pillow was simple, florists could use considerable variation in making it up. Inscriptions were frequently applied to the pillow design, and the pillow was frequently chosen when the sender wanted to have a word or phrase included in their arrangement. “Rest” or “At Rest” were the two most common inscriptions for the pillow. Other options included the name of the deceased, or script to indicate the relation of the deceased to the sender, such as “Father,” “Mother,” “Son,” “Daughter,” “Sister,” “Brother,” “Aunt,” “Uncle,” or “Baby.” One of the most popular inscriptions for the pillow among Christians was “Asleep in Jesus.” It was considered especially sentimental on the frames made for the funerals of young children.
Label Text:
Set pieces or set designs were among the most popular floral arrangements in the second half of the nineteenth century. The term set piece is a usually applied to designs in a wide variety of forms, which are often symbolic in character. Shapes that expressed an overall theme for an occasion were very fashionable, such as designs made to depict the profession, associations, or hobbies of an individual. These flower arrangements were ordered for special celebrations, holidays, weddings, and funerals. Typical of the Victorian style, these designs were elaborate and massive, but unlike other forms of flower arrangement, the set piece was exclusively made by the professional florist.
Set pieces were usually made up on wire frames in the desired shape, which acted as a foundation for the floral arrangement. Commercially produced, heavy-gaged wire frames, fabricated from either plain or copper-plated wire, became available for flower arrangements between 1860 and 1864. The retail florist business was enhanced considerably by the high demand for arrangements on flower frames in the nineteenth century, and wire frames quickly became the basis of the retail florist’s inventory. The frames could be obtained for little cost to the florist, and if he managed to retrieve the skeleton after the occasion, it could be reused. Wire frames came in both straight and curved outlines and either as a box (three-dimensional frame) or flat frame. Most designs came in several sizes and could be hung or placed on a stand or were free-standing. Standard forms in wire works catalogues ranged in size from 10 to 60 inches. Outside of the standard frame designs offered in wireworks and florist’s supplies catalogues, designs could be made for almost any occasion, with some large enough to make life-sized reproductions.
Over the course of the nineteenth and twentieth century floral fashions changed. Some set pieces faded in popularity by the early 1900s, but some remained favorites well into the 1940’s. Many of these same designs are still used today, but the wire frames have been replaced by shapes made from more modern materials to save the florists’ time in making up the arrangement, as well as providing water to the flowers allowing for greater longevity.
Topic:
emblems (symbols)  Search this
Floral frames  Search this
frame components  Search this
wire  Search this
associations  Search this
ceremonies  Search this
decorations  Search this
Floral Accessories  Search this
Floral decorations  Search this
floral designers  Search this
Flower arrangement  Search this
funerals  Search this
funerary objects  Search this
symbols  Search this
wirework  Search this
Credit Line:
Smithsonian Gardens, Horticultural Artifacts Collection.
Accession number:
1999.057.002-1999.057.005
Restrictions & Rights:
Usage conditions apply
See more items in:
Horticultural Artifacts Collection
Data Source:
Smithsonian Gardens
GUID:
http://n2t.net/ark:/65665/aq4078ad0b4-3f35-43ec-9f6d-ceb8a6b4e7a4
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:hac_1999.057.002-1999.057.005