History of flower arrangement
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The history of flower arrangement dates back to ancient Egyptian times. It developed in Egyptian, Chinese, Roman, Greek, Byzantine, and later in European, cultures.
The Ancient Egyptians
The earliest known flower arranging dates back to ancient Egypt. Egyptians were decorating with flowers as early as 2,500 BCE. They regularly placed cut flowers in vases. Highly stylized arrangements were used during burials, for processions, and simply as table decorations. Illustrations of arranged flowers have been found on Egyptian carved stone reliefs and painted wall decorations.
Flowers were selected according to symbolic meaning, with emphasis on religious significance. The lotus flower or water lily, for example, was considered sacred to Isis and was often included in arrangements. Many other flowers have been found in the tombs of the ancient Egyptians. Garlands of flowers were worn by loved ones and left at the tombs. These included blue scilla, poppy-flowered anemone, Iris sibirica, delphinium, narcissus, palm tree, papyrus and rose.
The two artistic functions were repetition and alternation. One flower around the rim vase and alternation colour,blue followed by green, and then blue again. This helped achieve that look of simplicity while keeping the use of the primary and other vibrant colours.
The Ancient Greeks and Romans
The Greeks and the Romans also used flowers. The ancient Greeks used flowers more for adornment. Herbs were frequently used with the flowers, and as garlands, and wreaths. They did not often use vases, focusing instead on garlands and wreaths. In terracotta they would place plant material such as olive branches. The leafy branches were probably used for weddings. They also tossed petals onto floors and beds. Like the Egyptians, the Greeks and Romans had preferences for the flowers and foliage they used .
The most popular foliage used by the Greeks and the Romans were acorns, oak leaves, laurel, ivy, bay and parsley. Laurel wreaths were presented to winners of athletic competitions in the ancient Olympics. These wreaths were also awarded to individuals winning competition in poetic meets. In Rome they symbolized a military victory and crowned the successful commander in honor of his triumph.The garland wreath was a symbol to the Greeks it represented, power, honor, allegiance, dedication, it was awarded in honor athletes, poets, civic leaders, soldier, and heroes.
Wealth and power led the Romans and Greeks to the greater luxury in the use of flowers and like the Egyptian were used in religious rites. At banquets, roses were strewn on the floor to a depth of one foot, and the flowers "rained" from the ceiling.The fragrance of so many roses were almost suffocating. The Romans used the roses at many meals and because of its overwhelming fragrance it was known as the "Hour of Rose".
The Chinese were making flower arrangements as far back as 207 BCE to 220 CE, in the Han era of ancient China. Flowers were an integral component of religious teaching and medicine.
Practitioners of Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism placed cut flowers on their altars. This practice dates back to 618-906 CE. They created paintings, carvings, and embroidered items with depictions of flowers. The paintings can be found on vases, plates, scrolls, and silk. The flower carvings were done on wood, bronze, jade and ivory.
Buddhist teachings forbade the taking of a life, so religious practitioners worked sparingly when taking cuttings from plants. Flowers and leaves that were used to make basket arrangements were selected based on their symbolic meaning. For example, the bamboo, the peach tree, and the pear tree symbolized longevity. The tiger lily, the pomegranate, and the orchid symbolized fertility. The most honored of all flowers was the peony. Considered the “king of flowers”, it symbolized wealth, good fortune, and high status.
The Byzantine Empire
( AD 320-600) In this period the Greek and Roman flower usages styles continued. But instead the garland was made differently. The use of many more leaves and tiny flowers were set in arching lines to give an twisted effect.
During the period 500CE to 1453CE, the Byzantine Empire made its contribution to floral arrangements. Arrangements typically included a cone shape design. The cone-shaped foliage was placed in chalices and urns, which were further decorated with brightly colored flowers and fruit. Flowers commonly included in these arrangements were daisies, lilies, cypress, carnations, and pine. Ribbons were also commonly used.
Flower arranging reaches Europe
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Flower arranging arrived in Europe around 1000 CE. This was particularly true in churches and monasteries where flowers and plants were used for food as well as for decoration. As crusaders came back from the Middle East, they brought new and interesting plants with them. As a result, European countries were able to begin experimenting with plants that were previously unknown to them.
MIDDLE AGES (AD 476-1400)
This is the era of the monks in which they were known for having gardens with herbs and wildflowers. As in the manuscripts, there are lots of wildflowers elegantly decorating the borders of the pages. In the later part of the Gothic period flowers reached a more dominant role, such as flowers beginning to blossom in altar pictures, manuscripts, and paintings.
An important aspect of the monastery plan was to include a medicinal herb garden, which would “furnish the physician with the pharmaceutical products needed for his cures. A dependence on the power of herbs. without reference to their Creator [God] was regarded as improper for a Christian” . Because God “causes herbs to grow,” their medical utility is fundamentally spiritual . In addition, many plants were used by monks and Christians in general in sacred rituals and ceremonies. They often had “well-known symbolic association” and appealed to spiritual bases as well as physical effects in medical care.
The flower design started in Italy and grew through Europe. Paintings of impressive floral arrangement in vases were popular. Stems were covered creating a massed symmetrically stiff arrangement. They used a variety of bright colors and different kinds of flowers. Fruit blossoms and leaves were woven into garlands to decorate walls and vaulted ceilings. Petals were piled into baskets or strewn on the floors, streets or to float down from balconies.
BAROQUE PERIOD (AD 1600-1775)
At the beginning of this period floral designs were symmetrical and oval shaped but later in that same period asymmetrical became favoured and the S-shape or a crescent was popular.
DUTCH–FLEMISH PERIOD (AD 1600-1750)
Unlike the baroque period the arrangements were more compact and proportioned. The major characteristic of this period was the variety of flowers within the bouquet.
FRENCH PERIOD (AD 1600-1814)
Feminine appeal became a major characteristic of the floral design. This was the French baroque period. French rococo this time was more formal. These floral arrangements were asymmetrical using the C-crescent or the S-shape. In the empire period they used simple lines in triangle shape and strong colour contrast. The typical empire design would be arranged in an urn containing an abundance of large richly coloured flowers .
ENGLISH–GEROGIAN PERIOD (AD 1714 -1760)
The designs were formal and symmetrical and often tightly arranged with a variety of flowers. There were influences of oriental design because of active trading. This made the design symmetrical triangle-shaped. At the end of the period the designs became more informal due to the fact that the fragrance of the flowers became more important. The fragrance of the flowers were said to rid the air of diseases. Because of this belief they created an arrangement called “nosegay”’, which was a handheld arrangement to carry sweet scents. Nosegays also helped mask the odors of society where bathing was often believed to be unhealthy. The bouquets were called tussie-mussies, often pronounced tuzzy-muzzy.
VICTORIAN PERIOD (AD 1820-1901)
Flowers were considered fashionable in this after queen Victoria named period. Although in this era flowers were poorly proportioned, large mass flowers were placed tightly into a container to create compact arrangements, asymmetrical and massed tightly. There was no definite style, but many different flowers and colours almost made the arrangement look unplanned. The tuzzy-muzzy bouquets were still serving to eliminate odors. At the end of this period attempts were made to set up rules for a proper arranging of flowers, which is when it became an artful skill or profession.
The Italian Renaissance helped to give an extra spark to the art of flower arranging in Europe. It was during this time period that a wide variety of arrangement styles began to develop. By the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, flower arrangements were commonplace and a wide variety of materials were used to make containers, including marble, heavy Venetian glass, and bronze.
Flower arrangements made during this time introduced a whole new element - the usage of tropical fruits. These arrangements also focused on creating colour contrast. Some of the popular flowers included the Lilium Candidum (or Madonna Lily, used as a symbol for fertility and chastity), narcissus, pinks, iris, jasmine, pansies, French marigolds, cornflowers, and rosemary.
- http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/210629/floral-decoration, Encyclopedia Britannica, "Floral decoration," retrieved 15 May 2013.
- http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2006/06/060629-egypt-flowers.html, John Roach, National Geographic News, "Ancient Flowers Found in Egypt Coffin", 29 June 2006.