Please help me identify this plant.
September 6, 2011 4:54 PM   Subscribe

What is the plant depicted in this stained glass window?

The window is in my old house (1913). There are others that have been easy to identify like tulips and bull rushes but this one has me stumped. The colours are not quite true in the photo. The center part of the bloom is brown and the "petals" are goldish yellow.The only thing I can come up with is a cast iron plant which was apparently in vogue in that period but I'm not sure. Is it a cast iron or something else?
posted by lunaazul to Home & Garden (14 answers total)
posted by toodleydoodley at 4:59 PM on September 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: sorry:
posted by toodleydoodley at 4:59 PM on September 6, 2011 [3 favorites]

My vote is for a brown iris.
posted by TooFewShoes at 5:05 PM on September 6, 2011

This page calls a similar presentation a Victorian Floral Rondel. Lovely piece, BTW!
posted by MonkeyToes at 5:16 PM on September 6, 2011

Maybe a Calla Lilly?
posted by francesca too at 5:21 PM on September 6, 2011

Possibly a (highly stylized) fuchsia? Fuschia?
posted by yesster at 5:27 PM on September 6, 2011

Best answer: It's a Lady-Slipper Orchid.
posted by oneirodynia at 5:32 PM on September 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

The responses you're getting are terrific, but it's very likely the flower depicted in that window is completely and utterly a figment, designed to evoke the image of "a flower" and not any known species of flower in existence.

cf. the stained glass flowers of Rennie MacIntosh designs, many of which remain recognizable though highly stylized.
posted by vers at 7:16 PM on September 6, 2011

vers, I thought so as well--IIRC, there is a Victorian term for a general/imaginary/stylized flower, but I can't recall it for the life of me.
posted by MonkeyToes at 4:45 AM on September 7, 2011

That motif *is* recognizable as a flower. The shapes of the dorsal sepal and labellum are very characteristic, as are the strap-like leaves. It's definitely stylized, probably from a drawing rather than an actual plant. The stalk has disappeared for the sake of composition, and though yellow and brown are common lady-slipper colors they're not in quite the usual places; it is still recognizable as an orchid.
posted by oneirodynia at 8:14 AM on September 7, 2011

Response by poster: I think you're right oneirodynia. The first link you posted is very close and even shows the same colour gradation in the "toe" of the slipper though as you say, the colours aren't in the usual places. I'd put it down to artistic interpretation. If you put the images up side by side they are strikingly similar.

I've been scouring google images with your answer in mind and found this modern interpretation of the Lady Slipper in glass as well as this Moorcroft vase and this piece of jewelry.

Thanks to toodleydoodley for pointing in the right direction and to oneirodynia for pinning it down. I've been walking past this every day for five years and wondering what it was!
posted by lunaazul at 12:27 PM on September 7, 2011

Just thought I would give you a BTW. So BTW I just happen to work with stained glass for my living. I make new Windows and do a lot of repair and restoration. Your window looks to be in great shape. MeMail me if you want advice on cleaning and whatnot. Typing on my phone. General advice is avoid glasscleaners and just use a clean dry bristle brush to clean. Will explain more if you want and when I have a full keyboard.
posted by yesster at 6:37 PM on September 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

lunaazul asked me to post this, which I had sent her in memail, so:

- avoid using liquid of any kind. Liquid gets the putty (see below) wet, and cycles of wet/dry can make the putty crack and migrate out of the lead channel. Also wet cleaning tends to create a halo of grime along the lead, since rags don't get into that crevice very well.
- if you must use liquid to remove old grime, do not spray the window. Spray your rag. This avoids excess fluid running into the putty. Also, do not clean a hot window with fluid. If the window is in direct sunlight, it can get very hot. Moisture can cause thermal shock which will crack the glass or stress the lead. Isopropyl rubbing alcohol is a good cleaner for old grime, as is vinegar.
- steel wool, very fine, can be used to clean the glass. Make sure to vacuum up all residue. Avoid scuffing the lead though, as the steel wool will brighten it up noticeably.
- you can use q-tips moistened with rubbing alcohol to clean the crevice at the juncture between the lead and the glass
- preferred cleaning method for most purposes is to buff with a clean, dry, stiff bristle brush. This removes dust and dirt, and can get in to the crevice along the edge of the lead.

- Is there rebar on the windows? This can be metal rods or bars that are tied to or soldered to the lead. Rebar is structural support that is original to the window, and essential for long-term stability. Smaller windows do not usually have rebar. If you have rebar, let me know and I'll tell you more about it.
- Is the window perfectly flat, or is it bowing at all? Once bowing starts, the window will degenerate quickly (years still, but quickly). A leaded window is like a really skinny brick wall. It has to stay flat and vertical to last.
- Examine the lead closely. Are there cracks? Do the joints still look intact? Lead lasts only about 100 to 125 years, at least old lead. Newer lead (used in the last 25 or so years) should last longer due to different manufacturing methods (extrusion, rather than milling) and "doping" with other metals.
- Putty is originally applied to seal the glass to the lead. It is applied on both sides of the window. This putty also adds strength to the window. On many old windows, this putty can migrate a bit out onto the glass, especially if it has been cleaned with liquids frequently over its lifetime. Examine the window at the juncture between the glass and the lead, and assess the putty. Is it mostly intact? Is it cracked or missing in large areas? It is possible to re-putty a window in place. Re-puttying a window can also have a dramatic cleaning effect. Don't pick out the old putty unless you're going to re-putty it.

In general, if the window is flat, and the lead is in good shape, leave it alone!

- cracked pieces should usually be ignored. Seriously. I tell folks this all the time but they don't get it. See, any effort at repair carries the risk of causing more damage. Live with the cracks, as long as there's no gap. If there are broken pieces with chunks missing, there are a couple of basic repair options:
1. Replace the broken piece with new glass. Some risk. We can match old glass pretty well. Kokomo Glass (Kokomo Indiana) has been in continuous operation for over a hundred years and still uses the same recipes. Most 1920's era glass is Kokomo.
2. Add lead to cover the cracks, inserting a similar glass to fill the missing chunk.
3. When a window is laying flat, you can diminish the appearance of a crack with superglue (cyanoacrylate). Apply the superglue liberally to the smooth side of the glass, and it will wick into the crack. After it dries, scrape off the excess with a razor blade or x-acto knife.

Also, most reputable shops will give you an assessment for free if you take your window into the shop. But you will have to pay a nominal fee for an on-site assessment.

There's much more than I have listed here. Every window is unique. If you have documentation or other evidence that it was from a noted artist (Tiffany) then don't touch it yourself.
posted by yesster at 11:56 AM on September 26, 2011 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks so much yesster!
posted by lunaazul at 12:11 PM on September 26, 2011

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