French Urn

September 03, 2013 Posted by: David R. Daly
A painted hammered iron urn from France.

This month we focus on one of the decorative pieces in the Kennedy dining room.  On top of the china cabinet in that space are two metal urns, one of which is pictured above.  The urns are roughly boat-shaped, are made of hammered sheet iron, and stand on an oval formed foot.  

They are painted green with gold accent lines, and they feature gold colored handles formed in the shape of swans, along with painted scenes on both sides.  The pictured urn has an image of two figures in nineteenth century garb standing in front of the ruins of a classical temple.  Both urns have a label on the bottom reading "Made in France", and they are most likely twentieth century pieces.  Similarly shaped urns with lids were used in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries to carry hot chestnuts from kitchens to dining rooms. 

According to National Park Service research conducted in the early 1970s, it was determined that these matching urns were not in the house during the 1914-1920 period of the Kennedys’ residency, but that they were family pieces Rose Kennedy acquired at a later point in her life. In a 1967 letter written to the NPS, Robert Luddington, the interior designer Mrs. Kennedy hired to work with her on the restoration of the Beals Street home, included the urns on a list of objects in the house that were of “special significance as many of them were used in the house and others are part of Mrs. Joseph P. Kennedy’s personal collection.”


Last updated: September 3, 2013

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