I-63635 | Mrs. MacKenzie in Allan's conservatory, Montreal, QC, 1871

Mrs. MacKenzie in Allan's conservatory, Montreal, QC, 1871
William Notman (1826-1891)
1871, 19th century
Silver salts on glass - Wet collodion process
25 x 20 cm
Purchase from Associated Screen News Ltd.
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  informal (1120) , Photograph (77678) , portrait (53878)
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Keys to History

Floral designs on chairs, glass and curtains brighten interiors, adding warmth and life. Living flowers and plants are difficult to grow indoors and are not likely to survive cold Canadian winters. Thus a greenhouse room, or conservatory (also known as a winter garden), is built off a ground floor room such as the parlour. Another way to bring nature indoors is with miniature greenhouses installed in bay windows or glass-domed Wardian cases. Oil lamps produce smoke, and the gas lighting installed in some city residences in the 1880s generates impurities, thus restricting the type of plants that can flourish naturally indoors. Houseplants of a more indestructible nature, including the aspidistra and palm, tolerate such lugubrious conditions. Domestic floriculture becomes a thriving and challenging pursuit in the age of oil and gas.

Jane L. Cook, "Bringing the Outside In," Material History Review 38 (fall 1993): 46.

Susan Lasdun, Victorians at Home (New York: Viking Press, 1981), p. 118.

R. K. Symonds and B. B. Whinery, Victorian Furniture (London: Studio Editions, 1987), p. 96.

Source : Crowding the Parlour [Web tour], by Jane Cook, McGill University (see Links)

  • What

    This is a romantic photograph of a lady lounging against a stand in a conservatory seating area, surrounded by a cosy rug, flowering plants and classical statuettes.

  • Where

    This is Andrew Allan's conservatory in Montreal.

  • When

    The photograph was taken in 1871.

  • Who

    This is Mrs. MacKenzie, photographed by William Notman.