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About Wrought Iron Nationality

Date post: 29-Nov-2014
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Wrought iron designs are a unique form of artistic expresion that has changed over the centuries and it is also particular of every culture and region of the world. This article tries to tell the story of the most common wrought iron and cast iron designs in its historic and geographical context.
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WROUGHT IRON DESINGS NATIONALITY Many of the components utilized nowadays in ornamental iron work are common on every country. However, certain characteristics of the ornamentations are claimed to have originated from Spain, Italy and France, as the major contributors to the ornamental iron art; but also and not least to Britain and the United States. Spain Italy and France are the most romantic and traditionally artistic cultures, and its landscape and climate has prompted its architecture to make use of open decks, balconies, front stairs and porches. In consequence its architecture has included a lot of wrought iron elements, and has made possible that architects and artisans, at unison, create beautiful iron designs, that are enjoyed in every country of the world. Many claims of country of authorship of certain designs, however, are only mere suppositions and appreciations of travelers and historians that have identified a certain characteristic of the iron designs used in a country, and for the most part should not be considered historical facts. Of course there are schools of iron in mostly every country of the world. Particularly in the United States one can identify French and British architectural iron in cities like New Orleans, Boston, New York and Philadelphia. Miami has also a strong iron culture that came with many immigrants from the Caribbean and South America. Central and South American Iron designs are Spanish for the most part. One can see in Miami and other Florida cities, a lot of iron fencing with spears and scrolls, as well as decorative window bars and “portones” or entrance gates , not to speak gorgeous railings in upscale residences.
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WROUGHT IRON DESINGS NATIONALITY Many of the components utilized nowadays in ornamental iron work are common on every country. However, certain characteristics of the ornamentations are claimed to have originated from Spain, Italy and France, as the major contributors to the ornamental iron art; but also and not least to Britain and the United States. Spain Italy and France are the most romantic and traditionally artistic cultures, and its landscape and climate has prompted its architecture to make use of open decks, balconies, front stairs and porches. In consequence its architecture has included a lot of wrought iron elements, and has made possible that architects and artisans, at unison, create beautiful iron designs, that are enjoyed in every country of the world. Many claims of country of authorship of certain designs, however, are only mere suppositions and appreciations of travelers and historians that have identified a certain characteristic of the iron designs used in a country, and for the most part should not be considered historical facts. Of course there are schools of iron in mostly every country of the world. Particularly in the United States one can identify French and British architectural iron in cities like New Orleans, Boston, New York and Philadelphia. Miami has also a strong iron culture that came with many immigrants from the Caribbean and South America. Central and South American Iron designs are Spanish for the most part. One can see in Miami and other Florida cities, a lot of iron fencing with spears and scrolls, as well as decorative window bars and portones or entrance gates, not to speak gorgeous railings in upscale residences. California is another state with a long wrought iron tradition, and has been influenced by Mexican artistry. Mexican blacksmiths and fabricators pretty much dominate the wrought iron ornamental industry in California. In the city of New York, of course there is a strong Italian influence and as in California one finds a strong Spanish motive, perhaps more than in any other part of the world. However it is worth mentioning the cast iron and cast bronze culture of the city, which brings old memories of the NY Company, J.L. Mott Iron Works and the magnificent centennial of Philadelphia. Yes, it is worth mentioning the iron work one finds in the city of Philadelphia, especially in the South walk area where one can admire beautiful iron-works of Merricks, Morris & Tasker, Savery and others, which are a strong representation of the British - French schools with heavy duty iron and majestic scrollwork.

Wrought Iron and Cast Iron in America New Orleans has been the origin of many beautiful cast iron designs, as a result of a combined French and British influence. The rose design was originally developed in the Vieux Carr Section of the city. As a matter of fact, the French quarter is considered the source and display of a wide variety of intricate castings, of pure American origin, that have given a unique look to the citys architecture. Many of the floral designs were influenced by the Art Noveau movement and one can trace its origins to the mid eighteen hundreds. Of course these designs reflect its historical European roots. For instance the Passion Flower, although a native south American plant, harkens back to old time Europe when a Sephardic Jewish botanist, a catholic forced converse, brought the flower and the fruit to the attention of the Spanish King in the midst of the sixteenth century inquisition, and provided the first sketch of the flower, which led to its use in religious architectural motives. Madam Pontalbas Building The Pontalba cast iron design is another group of cast iron designs that were ordered in 1848 for the Madame Pontalbas building in the New Orleans French Quarter, and are beautiful and versatile scroll and rosette designs that one can trace its roots to Old England blacksmithing school, that resemble some majestic scrollwork designs found in historic London. Here are some pictures that show this outstanding wrought iron art.

Pontalba building, New Orleans

Pontalba wrought iron design

American Oak Leaves Design The Oak design is a purely American achievement, again, specifically, but not limited to New Orleans. The Oak tree is a landmark of the gulf coast, and is the motif of the leaf and acorn designs of that area.

Oak leaf cast iron panel

Oak leaf cast iron corner bracket

Oak leaf cast iron panel

French Designs Louis XVI Wine yard and Flower Designs The Wine yard design is an ancient design present not only in wrought iron and cast iron, but in many other architectural features in buildings worldwide. It is a Mediterranean native design that recalls the joyful moments of the harvest of the grapes, that old-time landlords tried to paste to the facade of their Mediterranean mansions. This design was found in the Louis XVI palace court, and its been said that he himself commissioned it. The Wine yard design has a strong religious significance, as well; for both the Old and New testament include the vineyard as a part of the reward of the just. Therefore one can say that it is a Judeo Christian European Mediterranean design.

Wine yard cast iron panel

Wine yard cast iron medallion

Wine yard cast iron band

The fleur de lis, on the other hand, is a purely French design, and takes different variations of the original form. Actually, this design is used to be a symbol of the French monarchy and can be found in many French places, symbols and old paintings, like the one shown of Emperor Charlemagne.

Charlemagne and the iron fleur delis

Victorian Wrought Iron Design There is also the so called Victorian designs, that hearkens to the struggle between Neo Classicism and Romanticism at the dawn of the nineteenth century, a time of profound socio political changes, right after the French revolution. The characteristic of the Victorian Design is the presence of ovals, circles, and squares not too intricate leave and flower designs, with some S scrolls but not too many. The coat of arms shape is also found in the Victorian design. It is a coming out of the baroque medieval school, that include new ideas in the form of new ornamental elements that gives the Victorian design its unique flavor.

Victorian cast iron shield

Victorian cast iron railing panels

Spanish Iron Design

El Ave del Paraso or Bird of Paradise was a design created by Juan Ponce de Leon, the Spanish discoverer of the island of Florida, while watching a breathtaking sunset over a wheat field, and while yearning in his heart about the beautiful new paradise of the Americas tropics and its splendid fauna. This design is basically a great scroll top, followed by a arcuate chest and a pointy end. It is a typical Spanish design, where the scrolls and leaves meet in a harmonious tropical dance.

Bird of Paradise cast iron panel

Bird of Paradise with grapes

Bird of Paradise cast iron band

Typical Spanish design terminal.

Goose baluster

Some typical Spanish Wrought Iron architectural iron design elements are the Iron Spanish, Mexican balconies. As one can see, all include bird of Paradise scroll work and newel posts, which are strong Spanish features.

Mexican Balcony

Ignacio Balcony

European Baroque Iron All Medieval Europe baroque art disciplines are characterized by exaggeration in detail. Speaking iron, we find the same concept, with elaborate and intricate scrolling along with leafs and flowers that cover most of the spaces. The term Baroque comes from Spanish barrueco which conveys the idea of abundance, with eccentricity and complication. Actually, rueco is a term that applies to a person with bent legs! The climax, so to speak, of the Spanish and Italian baroque style is the Frankish Rococo style, by which French artisans accomplished a balance of delicate style with the natural exaggeration of the baroque theme. In the rococo style, scrolls and curves are the norm, and straight lines the scarce exception. Geometric designs just dont go with baroque rococo; instead of, we find garlands, festoons, and intricate bouquets, with outlined longer and split leaves, which show detailed branching and grooving on every single leaf. Realistic flowering is also a characteristic of the rococo style, which along with the other features, makes it warmer and more animated if one compares it with its purely baroque predecessors. Although a recognized French style; Germans, Italians and Spaniards have earned an excellent reputation in the baroque and rococo styles. Prime examples are the superb palaces of Wurzburg, Brhl and Shonbrun in Germany; and of course the Palace of Versalles in Paris France. Among the noted names of baroque iron artisans it is worth mentioning Neumann, Cuvillas, and Knobelesdorf.

Magnificent rococo arch at Wurzburg, Germany

Our balcony Iron Dove Queen and the Iron Lady Baroque are good examples of the baroque tendency, for the first has exaggerated belly pickets with 2 pontalbian leaf bands and an outstanding flower crown, and the second one hammered bellied pickets with a baroque bottom band. All this makes them a beautiful overdone French-Spanish-New Orlean baroque architectural element that has captivated many customers, for they add the beauty of an authentic architectural jewel to any hi end home.

Iron Dove Queen with Flower crown

Iron Dove Queen with Gothic Crown and gothic brackets

Iron Lady Baroque Balcony with brackets

Gothic Style

The Gothic style is many times confused with the baroque style, for they are for the most part contemporaries and complementary. It is said that Gothic comes from the german Got which means God, so gothic would mean religious or inspirational, and therefore includes religious symbols and shapes. Crosses, angel shapes, hearts, among others are found plenty in the gothic architecture. However rounded feminine rounded elements are also gothic. This images show some gothic iron balusters and panels

The pointed arches and spears that originated in the symbolic Vesica Piscis, a shape that results from the intersection of two circles, and reminds us the shape of a fish, is also a recognizable feature of the Gothic style of architecture, and symbolizes mankinds conquest of its environment and points the goal of the soul, this is, to reach the vicinity of its Creator. This shape is seen surrounding the image of Saints and Jesus in gothic paintings and sculptures. The balusters shown above use this concept in the center knuckle and also on the basket and shape of the rod itself. This movement is an amalgam of medieval and dark ages franco-norman influences and the real origin of the name is actually a renaissance mistaken identity with the Ostrogothes. The gothic movement started right on time with the decline of the Greco Romanesque civilization and is an invocation that combines a structural paradigm and artistry that celebrates the relationship between man and God. Instead of the massiveness of Greco-Roman structures, gothic structures show more artistic integrity and advance to greater structural concepts, such as flying buttresses, arches and elongated peers. Gothic is an inspirational design, therefore, modern architecture captures the concept and combines it with modern ideas and contemporary artistic trends, to produce wonderful expressions that harbor the most noble human feelings.

Therefore the concept of gothicness is changing over time to modern gothic like the feminine shape of the lightly bellied picket, and the baroquish grape cast iron scroll band, along with a pointy gothic crown, shown in this gothic balcony called Light Iron Dove.

Light iron Dove Balcony

Scroll and arrow brackets, typical Spanish Gothic design

Contemporary Style The evolution of art from the grotesque Greco Roman concepts to modernism, is an amazing journey of mankind in the search for, first every mans personal and individual artistic expression; but not only that, it is also a generational and erational struggle to find its own artistic identity, ones own artistic signature. The artistic expression is intimately related to the environment where the artist interacts. Therefore it is not surprising the sudden emergence of movements like cubism, impressionism and surrealism, that reflect a more mechanized society with brand new shapes all around, such as factories, cars, square buildings, airplanes and, of course, the invention of the photo camera that inspired impressionists to paint more momentary

actions, however not focusing oneself in the realism of the colors, but making their own chromatic impression, through the painters own soul prism. On the other hand, in the surrealistic arena, the art of Salvador Dali, for instance, shows how our environment is being distorted by modernism and technicism, with the images of bent clocks, flying cats, weird faces and floating furniture. Therefore, the contemporary style is more straight lines, softer curves, and simplistic mechanical shapes, but also some surprising elements that would recall the more baroque side of our minds, so to speak. Two examples of a contemporary design are the cubist balcony and the Caseys balcony, both for sale online, which is a simplistic but outstandingly beautiful design.

Cubist Balcony

Casey balcony railing

In the same mind but combining new and older design, carrying a contemporary look but, at the same time incorporating old school elements in a delicate balance is the Plain Picket Balcony, which it includes 2 thick corner posts with a typical Romanesque ball cap, on the sides of jus plain square section pickets.

Plain Picket Balcony

Asian-Chinese Design The Chinese actually invented the process of casting iron and from there the making of steel and wrought iron. Therefore it would not be fair not to include in this work the design characteristics of this ancient school. The Chinese design concept incorporates mysterious elements such as dragons, dogs, exotic plants and pointy finials.

Typical Chinese gate design

A typical Chinese element is the twisted bar and the narrow neck ball finial, therefore, we have incorporated those two elements in our design of the Chinese balcony.

Chinese Balcony

Chinese architecture is famous for including elements that are out of proportion, like the huge tall roofs with large endings at its corners and gigantic stairways. We have tried to capture that concept with this simple design that was installed on top of a Chinese Restaurant in Charlotte NC. We hope this article has been informative for our customers and bloggers, and I look forward to see some comments and critiques. Look for updates and additions. Pedro L. Sanchez August 17/2011


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