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Urn & pedestal, Andrew Jackson Downing

Object Details

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Horticultural Artifacts Collection
Date
ca. 1856
Period
Victorian (1837-1901)
Accession number
1988.014
Description
The death of Andrew J. Downing in 1852 was mourned by many, as he was an irreplaceable national asset. A subscription was taken by the American Pomological Society, which he helped to found, to erect a memorial urn to Downing. Urns were an important part of Downing's landscape design plans. The urn was designed by Downing's architectural partner, Calvert Vaux. After a debate over location, it was agreed to place the urn in Downing's new national park, which he designed on the National Mall under a Commission by Congress just before his death. Although his plans were never fully realized and the Mall was changed to L'Enfant's original plan in the 1930s, the urn has always remained on Smithsonian Institution grounds. The urn is carved white marble and rests on a substantial square marble base which is inscribed on all four sides with a lengthy tribute to A.J. Downing the landscape architect for the mall. The urns decorated with carved vines and leaves. There are two handles with faces at the base of each. The urn is a solid piece of stone (interior not carved out)
The urn is carved white marble and rests on a substantial square marble base which is inscribed on all four sides with a lengthy tribute to A.J. Downing the landscape architect for the mall. The urns decorated with carved vines and leaves. There are two handles with faces at the base of each. The urn is a solid piece of stone (interior not carved out)
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.
Inscription(s)
Inscriptions on pedestal base by Calvert Vaux.
Designer
Vaux, Calvert, 1824-1895
Honoree
Downing, A. J. (Andrew Jackson), 1815-1852
Sculptor
Launitz, Robert Eberhard Schmidt, von der 1806-1870
Topic
marble
Outdoor ornaments
pedestals
urns
commemoratives
Design elements
Garden ornaments and furniture
handles: finish hardware
memorials
planters (containers)
Satyrs (Greek mythology)
Vines
Medium
Marble, silicone coating
Dimensions
51 × 34 1/4 in. (129.5 × 87 cm)
Data Source
Smithsonian Gardens
Restrictions & Rights
Usage conditions apply
Type
Urns
GUID
http://n2t.net/ark:/65665/aq467ce6c59-2462-4267-96f7-dc47cb09e068
Record ID
hac_1988.014
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