Tuesday, March 3, 2009

sunflowers and aethetes

Following in classmate Amy's footsteps, I'm cheating on my piece of the week by featuring a piece I'm already writing a paper about. I need a break from research, but am not quite willing to lose sight of my deadline, so this is an ideal solution.
These andirons were designed by Thomas Jeckyll in 1876 and make up a small piece of the now-infamous Peacock Room (I'm not going into detail about the room as there's a wealth of information out there, but here's the Smithsonian's online exhibit if you want a quick look). The Peacock Room was the dining room in the London home of shipping magnate Frederick Leyland. Jeckyll was comissioned to complete it, but was eventully overshadowed when James McNeill Whistler was called in to add gilding and paint. The resulting hoopla is the stuff of legend, and suffice it to say that Whistler essentially drove Jeckyll to his death. But enough about that.

The Sunflower Andirons exemplify both the Aesthetic Movement and Thomas Jeckyll's contribution to it. The sunflower was a beloved icon of the Movement, due to its bold colors and flat shape. It was a favorite motif of Jeckyll's and he first utilized it in the fence surrounding the Japanese Pavilion of firm Barnard, Bishop, and Barnards at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia in 1876. It was a resounding success, and andirons designed after the fence were marketed by B,B, and B in the years following, although none appear to have been wrought and gilt in quite the same way as the above pair, which leads me to believe that they may have been made for Leyland specifically rather than bought off the shelf.

Whew! I hope you enjoyed my little blog forray into the history of decorative arts, but if you didn't, worry not, this will not be a regular thing. At least not until my next item paper is due!

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