The History of Garden Ornaments

Poseidon FountainGarden ornamentation has been integral to public and private garden spaces for more than two thousand years. One of the earliest archeological sites displaying an abundance of garden statuary is found in the Villa of Poppaea at Oplontis. Located near Mount Vesuvius, the country villa was covered in volcanic ash and preserved intact when the volcano erupted in 49.A.D.

Forty-four statues had been placed around the pool and courtyard. Their arrangement and subject matter differed greatly from pieces found in the courtyards of Pompeii. A typical Pompeiian home would have had a centaur or satyr displayed, whereas the Villa of Poppaea featured light-hearted pieces such as a statuette of a boy holding a duckling.

During the fifteenth century, it became chic to collect antiquities. Collectors displayed ancient statues, altars, and sarcophagi outside as status symbols. Ancient sculpture gardens became popular during the latter half of the fifteenth century and continued to be the aristocratic rage well into the sixteenth century.

Urns and vases began to appear regularly during the sixteenth century on balustrades, along terraces, near flower beds and flanking stairwells—much as they are used today. Exotic plants, especially citrus trees, were popular in Italy during this time. By planting the trees in containers, the plants could be moved inside during the winter.

Renaissance gardens were often enhanced with witty, humorous pieces. Bucolic themes were popular as well as peasants, dwarves, animals, shepherds and farmers.

UrnsAmerican garden art did not become popular until Stanford White introduced it in the 1880s. Working on the country estates of the Whitneys, Vanderbilts, Pratts and other great American families at the turn of the century, he is credited with establishing garden ornamentation in the United States.

American interest in garden ornaments has steadily grown. The twentieth century saw a resurgence of classical and romantic styles; bronze castings popular early in the twentieth century gave way to fine cast stone works and less detailed concrete renditions. Contemporary garden ornament artists may combine found objects with stones, wood, metal, mosaics and numerous other materials to create wacky, unusual pieces. Others, such as the artists commissioned by Archiped Classics, prefer to design pieces that evoke memories of the past, bringing the feel of the ancient world to the new.



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