About this artwork
Technological improvements to optical scientific instruments in the mid-nineteenth century spurred a veritable obsession across Europe with identifying and classifying the natural world. Amateur botanists were eager to collect and preserve floral specimens, which they intently researched and catalogued. In response to this broad appeal, French glassmakers made paperweights that portrayed the very botanical subjects that were so enthusiastically sought. Many weights represented specimens with horticultural correctness, but others were entirely fanciful creations. Paperweights like this example speak to the period’s fascination with taxonomic systems.
From the late 1840s to early 1860s, French manufacturers of fine glass and crystal—such as Baccarat (Alsace), Clichy (Paris), and Saint-Louis (Lorraine)—catered to the vast public enthusiasm for beautiful yet functional desk accessories. Paperweights, which were designed to secure loose papers against drafts, were among their most popular products.
- Compagnie de Saint Louis
- Diam. 7.1 cm (2 13/16 in.)
- Bequest of Arthur Rubloff