When I was a child growing up on Long Island, New York, there was intrigue and wonder for what was hidden behind a tall, wrought iron fence and shrubs of a neighbor’s backyard. This seemingly ‘secret garden’ domain of lush green had in residence the grandeur and elegance of majestic peacocks. Peering through the fence and shrubs I would strive to gain a glimpse of these graceful beauties gliding across the lawn. I was in complete awe and amazement at their beauty. The flowing grace and poise at which they walked had almost an air of pompous superiority, if you will! And yes, to discover that the stunning, majestic peacocks with the alluring plumage were males? Well, I was a bit shocked! (On a side note, peacocks are not as attractive vocally…). I enjoyed the opportunity to see these peacocks up close, from time to time. The very fact that our neighbors housed such exotic birds made an extraordinary impression on me. They, too, seemed exotic!
The next time my eyes laid on the grace of this bird was in the year 2000 on the expansive grounds of the Castle Howard in North Yorkshire, England. A stately Baroque mansion perched on a sprawling green estate within an 18th century walled garden where peacocks strut nonchalantly past those that stroll the spectacular gardens. Somewhere I have a photograph of a striking English woman bedecked with a fantastic wide brimmed hat, sitting on an decorative iron bench, with a peacock parading by her. An image I will always remember!
The peacock, indeed, holds a romantic allure that seems to resonate refinement. The rich, colorful and exotic array of plumage connects with images of majesty, for certain. Incorporated into interiors it lends an exotic gesture that is unique and almost out of the ordinary when used with restraint. The vivid colors of the peacock are stunning when used together and the image of the peacock is divine when “feathered” within one’s domain and attire. And mingled into a wedding bouquet? Extravagant and memorable. Majestic in every way. Feathered in style, indeed.
Since ancient times the peacock has been a symbol of wealth, beauty and rebirth (the feathers of a peacock are renewed each year). Interestingly, they are also a symbol of dangerous pride. Vanity, I suppose. Peacocks originated in India and were a symbol of royalty. During the 14th century, peacocks (or peafowl) had spread throughout Europe, owned only by the affluent and powerful. In the 17th century peacocks and peacock imagery emerged in Western European design. However, it was during the later part of 18th century that peacocks became in ‘vouge’ in the western culture.
Defined by exotic beauty, the peacock became a favored decoration and motif far into the Art Nouveau era that exploded onto the design scene in Paris and London at the turn of the twentieth century. It is said that Art Nouveau was the first original style that was influenced by its surroundings, not history. Stylized, natural forms of nature, such as the peacock feather, appeared on wallpaper, furniture and accents. Exotic woods, opalescent glass, silver and semi precious stones were the materials used in this elaborate and extravagant era. The colors of the Art Nouveau included, of course, the stunning “peacock blue”.
The peacock motif in architecture from across the world is an embellishment and lasting impression of majesty and dignity. An impression of an era that will continue to grace the world in style throughout time.