Tag Archives: victorian

Tin: Victorian Decoration Gone Insane

This photograph of a blue door with a tin wall was a first for me. The faded blue door itself was little more than two pieces of painted plywood being held into place by a set of old rusty hinges. There is no telling how long this building has sat in disrepair. Even the latch where the lock once held the doors had and been long forgotten.

The door was being held shut by a thin beam of wood, showing a lot of weathering from the dry alpine desert conditions and the bushes were overgrown all around the place. Overall the door provided an interesting view into the history of this old dilapidated building

However, the most striking feature by far was the brightly colored tin wall panels attached to the decaying adobe exterior. It is the first time I ever saw decorative tin used on the outside of a building to such an extent. Normally,  tin a decoration used inside of a building.   Of course, this does not mean it’s never used outside, but I’ve never heard of it being used on the outside from ground to roof. Surely the use of it as a full outdoor wall covering is a very rare event.Blue Door 2

In the 1800’s during the Victorian era, the use of decorative tin for ceiling tiles and other cosmetic features was very popular .  Even today, it is often used as a decorative and easy to clean back-splash for a kitchen or wet bar area. So the using tin is not that unusual in the decorations found in some very old buildings.

I’ve seen decorative tin tiles lining roofs and even used as wall hangings on the outside of a building. They usually appear as stars or decorative shapes that give the building a distinct character.

Indeed, there are hundreds of designs and patina available for walls, separate wall framing and ceiling covers. They are still a favorite decoration used while  restoring 19th and early 20th century homes and farmhouses. On the outside of a building though, you might see only a few decorative pieces displayed as a garden fixture or hanging on a barn door or wall but never in the measure as this photograph suggests.

So, even though it’s a mystery you walk away from this piece with two known facts. The owners really wanted to stand out in their community.   I mean, look at that use of tin and of course the color!   The second is that this door with it’s faded blue and white really give contrast to the bright red of the tile, making this a unique piece of art worthy of any wall.

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Winged Lion: How It Got from Assyria to Your Wall

Winged Lion is an artistic shot of a winged lion carved into the head rail of a Victorian server cabinet. The Victorian period between 1837-1901 was a period of change in the art of decorative furniture.

The manufacturing process of pieces changed from selective pieces hand-made for each client to a mass-produced factory one. For the first time, close copies of the same furniture the aristocrats had could be obtained by the common folk.

Thus enters our winged lion.   The winged lion is a mythological creature sometimes called the Lammasu. The Lammasu is a fantastic beast from the days of the ancient Assyrians Empire. When the 2nd Babylonian empire under Nebuchadnezzar II ruled the Middle East, they used it as a motif for the Sun God. Later, the conquered and displaced Jewish populace borrowed the winged lions as a prophetic animal in the prophesies of Daniel (Daniel 7:4) as a reference to Babylon itself.

Following the belief of the divine power behind the winged lion is it any wonder that the Christians followed suite by having it refer to St. Mark and even to Christ.

It is at this point that we go from the religious context Winged Lionto a more semi-divine arena. Since the city-state of Venice viewed St. Mark as it’s patron saint, it only made logical sense the motif of the winged lion would make it’s way into the heraldry and identity of the Venetian Empire itself.   After all what royal didn’t want their family to be seen as having God on their side. It is here that the brand of the image of the winged lion takes off.

This branding, much like an ancient form of a corporate logo, of the lion as a powerful, noble and ferocious beast was not lost on the rest of European royalty and plain ornamented lions show up all over Europe. The stylized lion especially became popular in the heraldry of England.

We soon arrive at the Victorian period named after Queen Victoria, one of the longest living monarchs of the British Empire. The Victorian period was a climate of scientific, artistic and cultural change in England.   With the love of the Gothic styles and dark ornate carvings making their appearance in building styles and especially in furniture. It’s only natural that the winged lion became popular again.

Only this time, the image refers the power of money and influence. Our winged lion motif loses its religious significance and becomes more used in its portrayal of economic and social power. The ability to make factory made furniture allowed the masses access to this powerful motif and it soon appeared on everything from tables to foyer pieces and servers.

Even now the meaning of this motif is in a constant state of change. Outside of the antique furniture business, the winged lion is synonymous with the artistic decorations of a gargoyle or griffin. It’s seen as a decoration more than a reference to power and elegance. Still, it makes for a great piece of art. Especially hanging on your wall.

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