A couple of interesting buttons with inanimate objects that have crossed paths with me recently. An artist palette, 3D dice, an enamel button with a vase & cut steel nails over faux wood planks.
Buttons on their original cards by the same maker.
Virtue, Liberty,and Independence is the state motto of Pennsylvania. The motto of was officially adopted in 1875. The meaning of the Pennsylvania State Motto reflects the attitude & hope of the people of New York following the outbreak of the War Of Independence in 1775-1783.
The images of horses, eagle, wheat, plow & boat are all on the state flag of Pennsylvania.
These brite cut buttons with brass birds were used on a wedding dress in 1886. White wedding dresses became popular in 1840 after Queen Victoria married Prince Albert. Before that, wedding dresses came in many colors.
During the Middle Ages & Renaissance, colors had symbolic meanings and wedding dresses were made in a range of colors. Blue was a popular choice as it represented chastity but brides also choose colors like green, red & yellow.
If artist Hieromymous Bosch designed antique French buttons, I imagine they’d look like worms with heads & snakes. My reference book says these are Seps, snake-like mythological creatures with the heads of other animals. What do you see? I see a rabbit, dog & cat heads.
Grapes were a popular theme among Victorian buttons. Grapes often represented Christ the with fruit & leaves symbolizing the Christian faith. Grapes themselves represented the sacrificial blood of Christ. The leaves stood for rebirth. The vines a representation of bounty.
Grapes are one of the earliest cultivated crops & the fruit & their vines are sacred to Bacchus, the Roman god of wine. As such, these vines take on a jovial symbolism, representing celebration & abundance.
These are just a few examples of antique buttons with a grape motif.
A Bacchante or Maenad, female followers Bacchus, the god of wine.
Carved mother-of-pearl over abalone.
These storybook buttons feature a character "Mr. Rook." The design was a based on a story, "The Ballad or Mr. Rook," written by George Wyndham, chief secretary of Ireland, & illustrated by his wife Madeline, to entertain their ill son.
The story was published in 1901 in verse form, about a company of rooks (birds smaller than crows) who gather in Clouds, Mr Wyndham's family neighborhood. There the birds find a safe place to nest & a kind lady to feed them. The bird with the umbrella is based on an illustration from the story, because even delicate Victorian birds need not get wet.
Perhaps it was the influence of heraldry images on livery in the UK. Or it may have been the Arthurian revival in fiction & non-fiction stories of the 19th century that made armor & weaponry a popular subject for Victorian buttons. The last button above depicts Jean La Hache, aka Jeanne Hachette, a French heroine who helped to defend the town of Beauvais in 1472. She took an ax to an invading soldier who had scaled the city walls & was joined in battle by other women to defend their town. In this scene she is poised to attack one man while another falls to his death. The city celebrates with a holiday in her honor every June.
Many serious button collectors are against cleaning antique buttons. However, since I am not a collector but a user of antique buttons, I prefer to clean them & bring these miniature pieces of art back to their former glory & beauty. I once believed that cleaning a button would devalue it. Now I'd rather uncover the mysteries under 100 years of rust, grime & verdigris.
One of the first buttons I cleaned revealed a hidden strip of copper that was etched with a Greek key design. Just as we feel renewed after a good cleansing shower, so to are these buttons brought back to life.