Sunday, May 1, 2016

...dark trees, gothic settees, & an elaborate gift...

If you truly love nature,
you will find beauty everywhere.
~ Vincent van Gogh

Yesterday was the Herbs Galore & More event at Maymont, a 100-acre Victorian estate turned public park that I’ve written about before in my post ...partying like it's 1893...” Condensing quite a story, a husband and wife built this estate with a Romanesque-style mansion; upon their deaths, they left it to the people of Richmond. I cannot imagine a more magical gift.  

As I was walking around the estate, in the distance I noticed a Purple Leaf Plum tree, such a beautiful tree especially when beside all the other green trees. I looked for a bench because it was after a long day of strolling through the Herbs & More event. I was tired of people and it seemed like whenever I found a place just to stand for a moment, a small crowd would linger near me as if I had discovered something that they had not yet seen. I would move and it would happen again and again. Finally, I left the event and walked around the estate down to the Italian and Japanese Gardens.  When I found those locations a bit too crowded for my taste, I headed toward the mansion which is surrounded mostly by fields and a few walkways. I finally found a more secluded place to site.

I was somewhat surprised to see this bench because just a few weeks ago I had discovered a post, “It’s Not Just About Plants” on the Smithsonian Gardens site about this exact settee. The website labels this a “Gothic Settee, Kramer Brothers Foundry Company, circa 1880-1900.”

Victorian furniture is characterized by a jumbling of styles, often incorporating design elements from previous eras, from High Renaissance to Gothic to Rococo. Makers and buyers would simply pick elements they found pleasing and incorporate them into a piece with no regard to purity of the original designs.

For example, this Smithsonian Gardens’ settee incorporates both Gothic and Rococo design elements at the same time, something that would hardly have ever been done prior to the Victorian era (1837-1901). Overall, the settee is extremely Rococo in its form and design. Characteristics of the Rococo period can be seen in the fluid curl of the cabriole legs and in the “c” scrolls that make up the arms. These two elements are characteristic of the asymmetry and playfulness of the Rococo period of the late 18th century, and would not have been combined with the structure and orderliness favored during the Gothic period (12th-16th centuries).

Interestingly, this settee features more Rococo elements in its design than it does Gothic, which was the name given to the pattern by the manufacturer, the Kramer Brothers Foundry Company of Dayton, Ohio. The only distinctly Gothic element is the back of the settee, which is comprised of four rows of repeating arches. It is this combination of characteristics from different styles that makes this piece unique and interesting, much like countless other objects from the late Victorian period. In pieces like this settee, it is easy to see why the period—which was overwhelmingly influenced by the large variety of revival styles—has been called Victorian Eclecticism.

Somehow such an elaborate description made the settee even more enjoyable. What a beautiful gift given to the people of Richmond.

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