A look inside the Globe de Mariée
Globes de Mariée are some of the most collectable items when you hunt for French antiques. It's quite common to see them at brocantes so it's worth taking a little time to understand what they are and where they come from and their history. As the name suggests, the globe was presented to a bride on her wedding day. After the wedding she would place her bridal crown in it and over the years she would add other objects. The globe would be on display or in their married couples room. On first glance the beauty is obvious but its clear that the decoration is loaded with meaning.
Each globe would be broadly the same form. First, a glass globe, the same type often used for protecting clocks or religious statues. Inside is the floral crown (bouquet de mariée), either real or wax, which would rest on a padded cushion and around would be an ornate brass decoration. This one below (from 1901, Bretagne) is dominated by the flowers. There is good reason why this could be so in Bretagne, which we'll come to later.
This would be populated over time with other symbolic pieces:
Small diamond-shaped mirrors symbolising the number of children that the couple wanted,
A central mirror represented fidelity,
The rectangular mirrors were related to the number of years elapsed between the meeting of the promised and their marriage
Similarly, garlands of leaves, fruits or brass flowers:
Grapes mean prosperity,
Wheat for fertility,
Linden leaves for fidelity,
Ivy for attachment
Roses: for eternal love.
Daisies: for purity and innocence.
Ivy Leaves: commitment to each other.
Lime Leaves: symbolized fidelity.
Oak Leaves: for strength and longevity of the couple.
Chestnut Leaves: for links to others.
Fig Leaves: for prosperity.
The tree: a symbol of love and strength.
Four Leaf Clover: Good Fortune
Cherries: for protection against bad fortune.
Also Important were birds:
The Dove: symbolized the desire for peace in the home.
The Bird holding a laurel wreath: symbolized “that as a bird makes its nest, so does the woman build her family.”
Over the years other special items were added, photographs, little locks of their babies hair, jewelry. The end result is a physical record of all the wishes and dreams of marriage. Before 1850, regional differences were marked: seashells in the north and north west, flowers in the south. As with most fashions, local variations were slowly ironed out. By 1880 they could be bought in store catalogs in different styles and different price points. By 1920 Lamotte of Paris offered seven types of Globe, but by this stage the fashion was fading as modernity finally began to sweep across France. By the time of the economic crisis in 1929, the trend had run its course and by the war it was almost already forgotten.
Which leads us to the present day. To find an intact globe with all its internal components is rare but not unfeasible. But over time, the thin glass cracks, the porcelain flowers shatter and the mirrors tarnish. More often than not we'll find bits of the globe, sometimes just a faded cushion with the ormolu decoration. The part I find most beautiful (and I fully admit it touches my romantic side) is the crown itself. Floral crowns have a deep long history stretching back to Ancient Greece. A Globe de Mariée would usually have a crown of orange blossom - the tree blossoms and bears fruit as the same time and the symbolism for a marriage is obvious. It seems accepted that they gained popularity in Europe after Queen Victoria wore one to her wedding in 1840. Real orange blossom flowers are obviously quite expensive so most brides would wear version in wax, wire and cloth. From 1892 a major centre of manufacture in France was at Briere in Loire Atlantique. The factory has gone but you still take classes to make your own. Obviously there were regional differences too. In Bretagne, the crown could also be a full garland and the groom would also wear them.
You'll notice the wedding dress isn't a typical color for a bride! Bridalwear is quite a global style now. As a tradition, floral garlands also seem to have died out in Bretagne (please correct me if I'm wrong) and weddings are much less 'decorative' affairs than they used to be. You can still hire someone to turn up in traditional Breton dress to your wedding via your local Celtic Circle. This might seems a bit like fancy dress but it hints that there is still a thriving near-underground industry trying to keep the older way of life alive as well as the skills needed to support it. And perhaps the message is getting out internationally too; we still get interest in the wax crowns, and we frequently get requests from American customers. If we find a very high quality one, we make sure we snap it up for the shop. The Bretagne connection is an interesting coincidence, as we will quite shortly be moving there. The source for the last photo above notes its origin as: "Costume de mariée de La Gacilly, vers 1905-10." ...which is the exact village we will be moving to! And there will be more on this later!