"Florum Antiquum: Decorative Arts in Bloom” February 24, 2019 at Boscobel
The subject of flowers brightened a gray February afternoon for more than 30 members of the Philipstown Garden Club (PGC) and Boscobel House and Gardens. Penny M. Brickman, chair of PGC’s Garden History and Design Committee, initiated a collaboration that brought about a lively talk by Jennifer Carlquist, Boscobel’s Executive Director. The title of Ms. Carlquist’s captivating presentation was "Florum Antiquum: Decorative Arts in Bloom”. Her remarks were inspired by the myriad ways late 18th and early 19th Century Americans managed to bring floral imagery into their homes.
Illustrated with a rich array of slides of period paintings, objects and architectural details, Ms. Carlquist’s talk documented how American decorative arts literally blossomed in domestic interiors, on furniture, ceramics, silver, textiles, and architectural features. With humor and insight, Ms. Carlquist took the audience on a tour of the phenomenon of floral imagery in distinguished museum collections and historic homes, paying particular attention to Boscobel’s own collection. She traced how the use of such imagery grew over time. Ms. Carlquist presented examples in which floral themes might be the only motifs to brighten a spare early interior. She explained that through the 1820’s and beyond, there was a sudden escalation in the use of such images that reflected an increase in prosperity. Once Americans were able to move beyond subsistence farming, ornamental gardens became possible, especially among the well-to-do. This luxury was incorporated into the decorative arts of the day. Ms. Carlquist noted that in the 19th Century, some Americans came to the philosophical view that the appreciation and cultivation of flowers could be considered morally uplifting and indicative of refinement of character, providing her audience with an insight into what might have motivated gardeners of an earlier era.