Monday, December 2, 2013

Holiday Decorating: Renaissance style

I always think the weekend after Thanksgiving is the perfect time to decorate for the holidays. For exterior decorating it's not too cold yet (hopefully) and it leaves the decorations up for the longest for everyone to enjoy!
Recently while in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia, I noticed the fan of fruit above the front door of the Bank of Alexandria Building  (1792) seen in the images above.  Commonly referred to as "Williamsburg over-door fans" these decorations actually date to the early 20th century thanks to House Beautiful magazine!
For the Holiday issue of 1926 House Beautiful encouraged its readers to decorate like Lucca della Robbia, an Italian Renaissance sculptor known for his use of fruit wreaths (see above for an example of his work). In the late 1930s Christmas decorating competitions were held in Colonial Williamsburg and many of the participants sourced House Beautiful and created these fruit decorations which would have been thought quite odd and wasteful in hard Colonial times!
The pineapple is often used as a sign of hospitality, perfect for the holidays.  These over-doors are also similar to the magnificent carvings of sculptor Grinling Gibbons who achieved ultimate realism in his carvings of fruit and flowers in early 18th century England.  What do you think -would you use fruit in your holiday decorating?

9 comments:

The Devoted Classicist said...

While I appreciate the more natural approach to holiday decorating, I think the squirrels, etc., would bite at, if not actually eat, such a display here. But then, the local version would more likely be plastic fruit hot-glued to Masonite.

Divine Theatre said...

I used this as a guideline to my decorating last year! This Summer, I constructed a wooden template with nails to skewer the fruit. WE don't decorate for Christmas until two weeks into December because we use fresh greenery and don't take it down until Epiphany.
There are some very realistic faux versions of fruit and I actually used faux oranges, apples and limes for indoor displays. It was easy to decorate them with cloves. I tuck cotton balls, soaked in orange essential oil and lime oil under the display for the necessary dimension of scent! The only fruit that I cannot find a suitable "faux" for is pineapple. However, they are long lived and easy to replenish at only $2 each!
I used faux sliced fruit for garlands and almost killed my family with the fumes when I placed them in the oven, covered in cinnamon to mimic dried fruit! Not recommended! They turned out well, though!
Here is a sampling of what we did last Christmas...
http://divinetheatre.blogspot.com/2012/12/merry-christmas.html


xo

Andie

Loi Thai, Tone on Tone said...

So beautiful! I love using fruit to decorate this time of year. What a gracious way to welcome guests!

Mark D. Ruffner said...

Della Robbia is a great favorite of mine, and I think the decoration for the Alexandria fanlight approximates della Robbia beautifully. I especially like the care to make the inner ring of apples uniformly darker red — from a distance it's as effective as close-up.

deana sidney said...

I like a bit of fun on a strait-laced old house. The color is wonderful in winter... good show!

Slim Paley said...

I always use fruit to decorate at Christmas! Well, all year round actually, living in Southern California.
It's welcoming, traditional and best of all, easy!
Happy Holidays to you
xxSP

Paisley Curtain said...

I always use fruit for holiday decorating, but have never used for outdoor decorations. We get so much temperature variations, even live wreaths have hard time surviving :)

designchic said...

I love using fresh fruits and vegetables in arrangements inside and out. They add such a beautiful element - especially love using in my centerpieces!

Ann said...

So festive, I love this idea!