Decorative Arts at The World's Fairs - Inventing the modern world, 1851-1939.

  • Nationalism

    Participating countries took great pride in the objects they exhibited at the world's fairs. National identity was seen in objects that evoked past traditions, or drew upon recognizable symbols and techniques. To show their patriotism, some manufacturers referenced folk traditions or the distant—and sometimes mythical—past, while others used images of the country’s land, resources and future.
    Viking ship at the World’s Columbian Exposition, Chicago, 1893. Photo by Charles Dudley Arnold. Avery Architecture and Fine Arts Library, Columbia University, New York.
  • Tennyson Vase

    The Tennyson Vase is the embodiment of British national spirit. The vase celebrated Lord Alfred Tennyson’s poems about the life of King Arthur. The scenes convey the moral message that English citizens must face decisive struggles to maintain good behavior.
    Shown at the Exposition Universelle, Paris, 1867 and the Weltausstellung 1873 Wien, Vienna
    Henry Hugh Armstead, English, 1828–1905. C. F. Hancock & Sons, England (London), 1849–present. Tennyson Vase, 1867. Silver and gilded silver with replacement textile. 42 1/2 x 16 x 13 1/4 in. (108 x 40.6 x 33.7 cm). Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, Ailsa Mellon Bruce Fund and Berdan Memorial Trust Fund, 2007.57.
  • Century Vase

    With motifs such as bison heads, George Washington and an American eagle, this vase illustrates events in American history as well as scenes of modern progress and industry. It was designed specifically for the 100th anniversary of American Independence.
    Shown at the Centennial International Exhibition, Philadelphia, 1876
    Karl L. H. Müller, designer, American, 1820–1887. Union Porcelain Works, manufacturer United States (Greenpoint, Brooklyn), 1863–ca. 1922. Century Vase, 1876. Porcelain with enamel and gilding. 22 1/2 x 12in. (57.2 x 30.5 cm). High Museum of Art, Atlanta, Virginia Carroll Crawford Collection, 1986.163.
  • Viking Punch Bowl

    The 1893 Chicago fair featured a Viking ship. Tiffany & Co. celebrated ancient American ties to Norway with the imposing Viking Punch Bowl. Nordic motifs are executed using the ancient process of damascening, or inlaying steel with silver and gold.
    Shown at the Worlds Columbian Exposition, Chicago, 1893
    G. Paulding Farnham, designer, American, 1859–1927. Tiffany & Co., manufacturer, United States (New York, NY), 1837–present. Viking Punch Bowl, ca. 1893. Iron with silver, gold and wood. 16 3/4 x 20 1/4 in. (42.4 x 51.4 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Purchase, The Edgar J. Kaufmann Foundation Gift, 1969, 69.4.
  • Corsage Ornament

    Jewelry displayed at the fairs expressed patriotic ideas through easily recognizable symbols or native materials. Tiffany & Co. was noted for its use of American stones, such as the Montana sapphires used on this dramatic corsage ornament.
    Shown at the Exposition Universelle, Paris, 1900
    Tiffany & Co., United States (New York, NY), 1837–present. Corsage Ornament, 1900. Montana sapphires, diamonds, demantoid garnets, topaz, blued steel, gold alloys and platinum. 9 1/2 x 2 3/4 in. (24.1 x 6.9 cm). The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, Acquired by Henry Walters, 1900, 57.939.
  • Daughters of the Northern Lights

    Gerhard Munthe's design for the tapestry The Daughters of the Northern Lights was inspired by Norwegian folktales and tapestries. Norwegian weaving had strong connections with national heritage. The subject comes from a popular folk story.
    Model shown at the Louisiana Purchase International
    Exposition, St. Louis, 1904
    Gerhard Munthe, designer, Norwegian, 1849–1929. Nini Stoltenberg, weaver, Norwegian, 1877–1968. Nordenfjeldske Kunstindustrimuseum Weaving School, manufacturer, Norway (Trondheim), 1898–1909. The Daughters of the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) or The Suitors, 1895. Wool and cotton. 51 x 64 1/2 in. (129.5 x 163.8 cm). The Wolfsonian-Florida International University, Miami Beach, Florida, The Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection, TD1993.132.1.