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Jun 23

Flowers & Fruit Of George Washington

Perhaps the symbolism of flowers and fruits had a special appeal for George Washington. He approved, and may even have selected them, as the decorative motif of the ceilings at “Kenmore,” his sister’s stately colonial home in Fredericksburg, Virginia. It was built in 1752 by Colonel Fielding Lewis for his young wife, Betty Washington. Brother George was a favorite visitor at “Kenmore.” It was always a second home to him, and his influence in its planning is clearly traced. The ceilings, which are richly ornamented in stucco, have been compared, for magnificence, with those in the Palace at Versailles, which are the handiwork of the same “Frenchman” who decorated the Mount Vernon ceilings.

A majestic circle, embraced by four semicircles, forms the ceiling of the Library at “Kenmore.” Graceful loops and swirls of intertwining flowers ornament each of these enclosures. But the designs in the four corners attract special notice. These typify the four seasons softly-fronded palms for spring, bunches of grapes for summer, delicately fashioned acorns for fall and mistletoe for winter. The ceiling of the Library at “Kenmore” displays the flower motif, with designs in the four corners typifying the four seasons. The fruit-and-flower overmantel in this friendly room is of equally fine workmanship. It is a picture in plaster, and a most effective decoration. In the center of a handsome stucco “frame” is a slender basket, below which a garland of flowers is artistically looped. In the Great Room, or Salon, the ceiling is dominated by an immense circle, adjoined by semi-circles at either end. Within the large central circle are eight smaller rings of conventional flowers, each woven around a basket of blossoms. The four corner spaces again compose an important decorative theme. Flowers and fruits spill out in abundance from a cornucopia in each, so that this is known as “the four horns of plenty” ceiling. Delicate loops and scrolls intertwine over the whole. It is in the Great Room that the famous Aesop mantel is to be seen. This was designed especially by Uncle George as a gentle warning to his eleven Lewis nieces and nephews to eschew vanity and flattery. The central theme of this allegorical mantel is the story of the fox, the crow, and the piece of cheesedaintily told in plaster figures.

A tiny house, church and fort, symbolize the strongholds of the nation. Other significant figures are the proud, boastful swan, stripped of her feathers by her companions; the lamb that muddied the water for itself, in stirring up trouble for another; the lion set free by the mouse. This collection of fables is set in an ellipse of flowersa garland of roses, daisies and morning glorieswith a handsome square frame forming an additional enclosure. All this elaborate decoration radiates from a head of Louis XIV, set in rays to betoken the Sun God of France.

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