Creepy Creatures Limited Editions
Almost all first-time button collectors are bewildered by the number of buttons they find which picture spiders, snakes, flies, and other insects. It’s hard for the modern mind to reconcile the images of ruffled and flounced Victorian gowns with the dozens of spider and bat buttons that sometimes adorned them!
The reason for this perplexing combination can be found in two areas of the Victorian world: a growing interest in natural history during the century of Darwin, and a proliferation of visual material, such as illustrated weekly papers, that had never before been available to the middle class. When picture buttons became the absolute rage from the late 1870s through the 1890s, it was natural that they would depict images from popular culture, whether from operettas, novels, and mythology, or from nature in all its forms (not just the cute and cuddly ones).
A trio of deluxe Victorian spider buttons: a stamped brass web on mother-of-pearl; an emaux peints enamel showing a marvelous contrast between the sweet flowers and realistic spider; a large button with a spider who has caught a fly in its web.
Four samples of Victorian bat buttons in brass and glass, shown with the sort of heavily buttoned 1880s gown they would have adorned.
Art Nouveau, which brought the Victorian era in design to a close, focused less on ancient and classical forms, and more on an ethereal and mystical vision of nature. The most common images in Art Nouveau buttons were dragonflies and lilies, but bats were surprisingly popular!
The button workshops of Bohemia (today’s Czech Republic) produced stunning jet glass buttons in the late 1880s. Seen here are two spider buttons with gorgeous carnival glass lusters, and a large, striking spider with a faceted glass body (this spider was produced in several colors and used for hatpins as well).
Because these buttons were made to decorate clothing, the same design was often produced in a variety of colors, so as to enhance different fabrics.
Top row: Three Victorian brass spider buttons, circa 1880-1900.
Bottom row: Mid-20th century spider or web buttons of reverse painted Czech glass, British Bimini-style pressed glass, and West German white moonglow glass.
As we are releasing these bat and spider buttons just in time for Halloween, we’ll end this blog with Shakespeare’s three witches from Macbeth setting the scene:
Eye of newt, and toe of frog,
Wool of bat, and tongue of dog,
Adder’s fork, and blind-worm’s sting,
Lizard’s leg, and owlet’s wing,–
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.
Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and caldron bubble.