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Wire frame, "Heavenly Ports" double arch

Object Details

See more items in
Horticultural Artifacts Collection
Date
ca. 1879-1962
Period
Victorian (1837-1901)
Accession number
1979.011.008
Description
In mourning symbolism of the nineteenth century, arches were symbolic of victory over death. Victory over death is rooted in the tenants of the Christian faith, and in the nineteenth century this concept was magnified. Death and eternity in heaven were seen as the victory of faithfulness. Symbols of victory reminded the Christian that whatever pain and suffering one may endure, they would come out on the other side into glory and heaven. In addition to symbolic shapes, references to victory were made through the “Language of Flowers” by using palm, laurel, or nasturtium. As they alluded to the reward at life’s end, set pieces in the form of victory symbols were especially suited to funerals, but they might also be used at other religious events and occasions.
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.
Credit Line
Smithsonian Gardens, Horticultural Artifacts Collection. Gift of H. Weber & Sons Company.
Topic
emblems (symbols)
Floral frames
frame components
wire
arches
associations
ceremonies
decorations
Floral Accessories
Floral decorations
floral designers
Flower arrangement
funerals
funerary objects
heaven
symbols
weddings
wirework
Medium
Wire
Dimensions
30 3/4 × 22 × 15 in. (78.1 × 55.9 × 38.1 cm)
Data Source
Smithsonian Gardens
Restrictions & Rights
CC0
Type
Floral frames
GUID
http://n2t.net/ark:/65665/aq4d94fb731-ee45-4243-9704-f0a515e9817b
Record ID
hac_1979.011.008
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