Fancy Figures
By Karen Parr-Moody

At GasLamp, figural ornamentation  — that glorification of the human body — can often be glimpsed in tabletop items, in everyday items such as door knockers, in sculpture or in brass ornaments that grace furniture. Such items have roots reaching back into antiquity and make for beautiful home décor today.

During Greek and Roman times, in particular, the human body found its way into stone and marble; such bodies were carved into the façades of buildings and typically depicted religious ideas. Figures of mythology were depicted in amazing detail.

Mermen  — the mythical creatures that were the counterpart of mermaids  — were found in Greek mythology and depicted fancifully. Such Greek imagery found a revival during the Victorian era; the cachepot in the photo, right, was made in 1888 and features two "merboys" ($120; Booth B-230).

This merboy piece was originally created as a lamp by Bradley & Hubbard, a firm known for producing kerosene burning lamps during the Victorian era; it is made of quadruple plate silver, some of the highest quality silver produced at that time. Such a lamp would have been sold during that time period in the finer retail firms of the day — Marshall Field & Company, Sears and Roebuck & Company and Montgomery Ward & Company. (The GasLamp dealer also has the hardware to turn it back into a lamp, if one should choose to do so). The merboys' wings are made of shells, and each shell has a tiny silver "pearl" in it. I could easily see fluffy pink peonies peeking out of this find.

The vase in the photo, left, features three lovely angels ($68; Booth B-106). It is an example of mold-blown Victorian Bristol glass that was manufactured during the late 1800s and was snatched up by the fast-growing middle-class homeowners of the Victorian era. Among the popular Bristol wares were vases, perfume bottles and lamps. Such glass took on the name of Bristol glass from the town of Bristol, England, which was a major glassmaking hub in the 17th and 18th centuries.










The metal figure in the photo, right, was once wired to be a lamp ($90; Booth B-230). She is a Greek figure and wears the traditional peplos garment. While she is not made in marble, her look is typical of the Neoclassical style often found in that material, in which a woman holds a water pitcher and stands in "contrapposto" – the Italian word meaning "counterpose.” The figure stands with most of its weight on one foot making the shoulders and arms twist off the axis from the hips and legs. She is such a glamorous gal, no?


In the photo at left is an ormolu framed mirror with three sconces ($295; Booth B-230). Made by Bradley & Hubbard, it features the figure of Bacchus at the top; for the ancient Romans, Bacchus was the god of wine and intoxication and was equated with the Greek god Dionysus. This piece dates to the 1870s to 1880s and fits into the Victorian trend of turning everyday objects into highly decorative items. This mirror has intricate brass work throughout and would certainly bring elegance to a home’s front door if placed in a foyer.

Bygone eras possessed much to be admired. Chief among them was figural ornamentation, which is an art form in and of itself. I personally have many figurals in my home — including a 1930s lady with a glamorous lady surrounded by gold moriage and a Victorian-era Parian Ware lamp that depicts a lady from the First French Empire. They simply imbue any room with a little romance ... and what could be better than that?

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