Flower symbol on Antique furniture

by Dr. Lori Verderame

Learning about flowers can give you a garden full of information about priceless art and antiques. Did you know that a sunflower was the symbol of the French monarchy in the mid 1600s? Were you aware that in 17th Century Holland tulips were a sign of prosperity? Did you realize that cabinet makers in Colonial Philadelphia carved forget-me-not flowers into their furniture so owners knew that their furniture piece came from the city of Brotherly Love? This floral symbolism can help you to identify period art and antiques.

King Louis XIV of France was known as the sun king. His palace at Versailles was built with that reference in mind. For instance, the King’s bedroom was located in the eastern part of the palace so he could rise in the east as the sun rises. Period furnishings highlighted this famous association between the King and both the sun and sunflowers. These forms are found on 17th and 18th Century French furnishings, garden antiques, and architectural details.

As the sunflower was to the French, tulips were a symbol associated with the Dutch and found on period art and antiques from the Netherlands. For example, the tulip is an important symbol of prosperity and one which is also used in post-war America.

Tulips got their start in Holland during the 17th Century. The concept of “tulipomania” became popular as there were expensive transactions made all in the pursuit of tulips and bulbs. Plots of land were traded for tulip bulbs in the 1600s. And today, the popular tulip flower attracts great numbers of tourists to the Netherlands.
As Americans rebuild after WWII, the tulip finds its way into home decor and kitchen collectibles of the time like this bisquit tin from the mid 1950s.

In Colonial Philadelphia, the five petaled flower or the forget- me-not was a form which helped collectors identify where a particular object was made. It was a common practice for tables, chairs, and other decorative items to be unsigned or unmarked. However, the inclusion of the five petaled flower indicated that a piece of early furniture was made in Philadelphia. The forget-me-not was also a symbol associated with the deceased in painting and carvings on decorative cemetery headstones.

Learn about flowers and discover how the seeds, buds, and blooms could lead you down the primrose path to big bucks in the antique markets. These flower symbols speak volumes when considering period antiques.

Request an online appraisal of your flower antiques from Dr. Lori.