NOUVEAU JEWELRY BOXES Portray Spring Floral Fantasies Nouveau jewelry boxes were a popular item upon which was expressed many fanciful flowers which portrayed special symbolic importance during the early 1900's.
transformation by the gods of luckless nymphs and youths into flowers and trees, which have since kept their names. Many stories describe the origin of the color of blossoms. For example, white flowers are represented as having originated from fallen tears, and pink or red flowers from blushes or blood. The ecclesiastic/historical legends are generally due to the reverent imaginings of Catholic monks. While tending their flowers in the quiet and seclusion of monastery gardens, they may have associated a certain flower with a memory of some favorite saint or martyr, and allowed their fancy to weave a fiction to perpetuate the memory of that saint. Many historical legends pertain to favorite sons and daughters of the Church. The poetical legends include the numerous fairy tales in which flowers and plants play an important part, and which may include elves, trolls and witches. In more recent history (the Victorian era), flowers came to be a language of symbolic content.
The following represents a brief summary of just a few of the myriad of flower tales about the blossoms that adorned the lovely Art Nouveau jewelry boxes of the early 1900’s:
According to a German tale full of melancholy and romance, a young couple was walking along the banks of the Danube on the eve of being united. They saw a cluster of Forget-Me-Nots floating on the stream which was bearing it away. The bride-to-be admired the beauty of the flower and lamented its fatal destiny. Her lover plunged into the water to secure the flowers. No sooner had he caught them than he found himself sinking. Making a last effort, he threw the bouquet onto the bank at the feet of his betrothed and, at that moment of disappearing forever, exclaimed, “Vergiss mein nicht!” (Forget me not!)
Lilies of the Valley, also called “Virgin’s Tears,” have blossoms that were thought (during the mid-1500’s) to possess a perfume highly medicinal against “nervous affections.” The water distilled from them was in such great repute that it was kept only in vessels of gold and silver. There is also a legend that in the forest of St. Leonard, where the hermit-saint once dwelt, fierce encounters took place between him and a dragon. The holy man finally succeeded in driving the dragon away, and the scenes of their battles were revealed afresh each year, when beds of fragrant Lilies of the Valley appeared wherever the earth had been sprinkled by the blood of the warrior saint.
The Daisy has been called the “poet’s darling.” Shakespeare and Wordsworth, and many poets in between, have used the Daisy to represent the quality of pure innocence. The ancient English name of this flower was Day’s Eye, from which came its present name. Chaucer called it the “ee of the daie,” probably from its habit of closing its petals at night and during rainy weather. There once was a popular superstition that if you failed to put your foot upon the first Daisy of spring, Daisies would grow