The Flower Bouquet of the United States: One, or Two?

One of the early posts in the Archive (#26) spotlighted the Flower Bouquet of the United States that was created by Cybis for the 1964 World’s Fair held in New York. This new post expands upon and replaces that one, because of a significant amount of new information recently discovered.

The Creation of the Flower Bouquet

This black-and-white photo of the piece — titled there as Flower Bouquet of the United States — appears in the 1970 museum exhibit catalog Cybis in Retrospect. Dimensions are given as 36″ x 40″, and it is noted that the bouquet includes a representation of each of the official flowers of the 50 states plus the District of Columbia.

This color photo appears in the studio’s 1979 catalog, where it is listed in the Appendix as Floral Bouquet of the United States, with the same dimensions cited.

Although Laszlo Ispanky’s book claimed that this was one of his pieces, that attribution is only partially correct: The only part of the sculpture that he actually made was the base mold. The creation of the flowers and leaves was the collaborative work of all of the artists at the Cybis studio, and in fact they hired some additional sculptors to help with the project. I learned of this firsthand from one of the artists who actually took part in its construction.

The bluebird apparently dates back to the 1950s and is likely to have been one of a pair that may (or may not) have been designed by Ispanky. See Body Snatching at Cybis for an explanation of the travels of this particularly peripatetic passerine.

The official USA state flowers, as per the USDA website, are:
Alabama = Camellia japonica
Alaska = forget-me-not, Myosotis alpestris subsp. asiatica
Arizona = the Saguaro cactus flower, Carnegia gigantea
Arkansas = apple blossom, Malus domestica
California = California poppy, Eschscholzia californica
Colorado = columbine, Aquilegia caerulea
Connecticut = mountain laurel, Kalmia latifolia
Delaware = flowering peach blossom, Prunus persica
District of Columbia = the American Beauty rose
Florida = orange blossom, Citrus sinensis
Georgia = the Cherokee rose, Rosa laevigata
Hawaii = the hibiscus flower known as “pua aloalo, Hibiscus brackenridgei
Idaho = mock orange blossom, Philadelphus lewisii
Illinois = the purple violet; no species is identified, simply “the genus Viola
Indiana = Paeonia lactiflora
Iowa = wild prairie rose, Rosa arkansana
Kansas = the annual sunflower, Helianthus annuus
Kentucky = goldenrod, listed simply as “Solidago spp.”
Louisiana = Magnolia grandiflora
Maine = this state does not have a state flower per se in the technical sense; the state tree is the Eastern white pine, Pinus strobus, and the flower is listed as the “Eastern white pine tassel and cone”.
Maryland = black-eyed susan, Rudbeckia hirta
Massachusetts = the mayflower, Epigaea repens
Michigan = apple blossom, Malus domestica
Minnesota = the wild ladyslipper orchid, Cypripedium reginae
Mississippi = Magnolia grandiflora
Missouri = the hawthorn blossom, listed simply as “genus Crataegus”
Montana = Lewisia rediviva
Nebraska = the giant goldenrod, Solidago gigantea
Nevada = sagebrush flower, Artemisia tridentata
New Hampshire = lilac, Syringa vulgaris
New Jersey = wild violet, Viola sororia
New York = the rose; no species identified but simply “the genus Rosa
North Carolina = dogwood, Cornus florida
North Dakota = the wild prairie rose, Rosa arkansana
Ohio = carnation, Dianthus caryophyllus
Oklahoma = mistletoe, Phoradendron leucarpum
Oregon = barberry, Berberis aquifolium
Pennsylvania = mountain laurel, Kalmia latifolia
Rhode Island = early blue violet, Viola palmata
South Carolina = jessamine, Gelsemium sempervirens
South Dakota = pasque flower, Anemone patens var. multifida
Tennessee = bearded iris, Iris germanica
Texas = the lupine, colloquially called the Texas bluebonnet, designated simply as “genus Lupinus
Utah = the sego lily, designated as “genus Calochortus
Vermont = red clover blossom, Trifolium pratense
Virginia = dogwood, Cornus florida
Washington = Rhododendron macrophyllum
West Virginia = Rhododendron maximum
Wyoming = Indian paintbrush, Castilleja linariifolia

The Floral Mystery

The Cybis studio has always said that only one of these was created, and that after the Fair closed, the Bouquet was given to the Smithsonian. From a cursory glance, the two photos above look the same except that one is black-and-white and the other in color; but I recently noticed that they are not the same at all.

It is amazing (and embarassing!) that it took me so long to see the discrepancies between the two “official” Cybis photos of this piece. The color photo either does not show it in its original, as-finished condition … or there was more than one of these bouquets made. If so, that would flatly contradict the studio’s public claim of the Bouquet being one of a kind.

I did a side-by-side comparison of the two photos and was flabbergasted at how many discrepancies there are between them. There are seventeen, and that is only in the parts of the sculpture that are visible in these two photos! There is no way of knowing how many differences there may be in the ‘backside’ section that the photos do not show. I marked and numbered each of the visible differences, with green representing an item that appears in the 1970-book photo and a corresponding red indication showing where those same items are missing from the photo that Cybis published in 1979.

A further wrinkle arises because there is also a difference in the physical size of the piece described by Cybis, versus the size cited for the Bouquet as it exists today. This raises the possibility that there was not just one of these made. And if there was a second one, then what happened to it?

Here are the two marked-up photos, followed by a legend listing the numbered elements.
1 = butterfly, present 1970 but missing 1979
2 = front end of flower and leaf spray, present 1970 but missing 1979
3 = butterfly, present 1970 but missing 1979
4 = leaf spray, present 1970 but missing 1979
5 = butterfly, present 1970 but missing 1979
6 = butterfly, present 1970 but missing 1979
7 = flower spike, present 1970 but missing 1979
8 = bird, present 1979 but not 1970
9 = white flower, present 1979 but not 1970
10 = red chrysanthemum or dahlia, present 1979 but not 1970
11 = short pale lavender flower spike, present 1979 but not 1970
12 = white flower, appears to be dogwood, present 1979 but not 1970
13 = leaf beneath the red rose, present 1979 but not 1970
14 = white dogwood flower, present 1979 but not 1970
15 = wild rose, wide open, present 1979 but missing 1970
16 = white flower, present 1979 but missing 1970
17 = wheat-like flower spray, present 1979 but missing 1970 (might this be #7 relocated?)

This is a lot of discrepancies! A quick tally shows that there are 7 elements that appear on the 1970-book photo that are gone in the 1979-catalog one. There are 9 elements that are seen in the 1979 color photo that do not exist in the photo that we know for sure was taken prior to the 1970 museum catalog’s publication (if #17 is not included in that count, its source being uncertain.)

One problem is that we don’t know what year either photo was taken. Finding circa 1950s and 1960s Cybis publications of any sort is a challenge. The catalog they published in 1964 does not include a photo of the Bouquet, nor is it in their 1965 printing. There was actually a small 1964 World’s Fair Cybis brochure but it only shows three items: the Baby Owl, the Dahlia, and Ballerina ‘On Cue.

If the “1979-photo” elements appeared in the same locations as the gone-since-1970-image elements once were, a simple explanation would be that they were put there to offset the losses/damage that the piece suffered after the 1970 photo was taken. But none of the “later” elements are in those same locations.

From the Fair to the Smithsonian

The 1964 World’s Fair closed (amidst a massive financial debacle that is a fascinating story in itself) in 1965, at which point one might logically assume that the Bouquet was retrieved by Cybis along with the other sculptures that had been on display there, and then donated by them to the Smithsonian, as happened with an artist’s proof of the Chess Set in the 1970s. However, that is not what happened.

Thanks to invaluable assistance from the Curator of the Ceramics and Glass Collection at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, we now know that the Bouquet was given to them in 1968 by Mr. Charles Schwartz … not by the Cybis studio. Who was Mr. Schwartz, and why the three-year delay?

Charles Schwartz II was the grandson of the founder of Charles Schwartz & Son, the oldest jewelry store in Washington, D.C., which opened in 1888. During the 1960s and 1970s they were one of the Cybis studio’s larger retail gallery partners, and the major one in the D.C. area. At the time the Bouquet was created, the thirtysomething Mr. Schwartz was the store’s president, having taken over in 1955 from his father Samuel. At some point in time he purchased the Bouquet (or at least, a Bouquet) from Cybis and then in 1968 donated it as a gift to the Smithsonian. Perhaps it was on display at the store for a period of time, and/or kept at his home, in the interim. (The store was sold in 1984 and is no longer owned by the Schwartz family.)

This is the Flower Bouquet of the United States currently in the holdings of the Smithsonian’s Museum. Notice that the wood supporting stand has been (thankfully!) changed from what appears in the circa-1970s photographs. Other than that one difference, the floral elements do match, in appearance and position, those seen in the Cybis 1979 catalog color photo. [Photos courtesy of the National Museum of American History.]

There is, however, a new discrepancy which is one of size. The two 1970s Cybis publications give the Bouquet dimensions as 36″ x 40″; conventional usage dictates that the first dimension is the height, unless noted otherwise. So the original Bouquet was slightly wider than tall. The question then becomes whether those dimensions include the wooden stand, but since doing so would make the sculpture taller than wide, the assumption must be that 36″ x 40″ refers to the porcelain piece only.

The surprise is that the Smithsonian’s database for their Bouquet describes it as being “overall: 29 1/2 in x 26 in x 15 in” (the 15″ being the depth front to back, which the Cybis literature did not include.) The first question is whether “overall” was meant to include the stand … which would make theirs significantly smaller than the original, supposedly-one-of-a-kind piece. Even if the stand is discounted, however, those measurements still make the Smithsonian bouquet 6″ shorter, and 14″ less wide, than the original.

As luck would have it, the research efforts by myself and the Curator of the Museum are currently stymied by the closure of the Smithsonian locations due to the COVID-19 epidemic currently ongoing; their employees are working remotely, and so it’s not possible for anyone to physically re-check the measurement of their Bouquet to see if the circa-1968 measurements are accurate. When that is able to be done, I will update this post with the results.

What Happened to the Bouquet(s)?

So, we are left — for the moment, at least — wondering why the various differences between the original (1963-1964) Flower Bouquet and the piece that existed after 1965. Are they both the same sculpture, or could more than one have been created?

Could the original Bouquet have come back to Cybis so extensively damaged from the Fair (or from transport) that it required a dimension-altering restoration? If the studio did not try to re-make the missing or broken flowers as they originally were, but instead decided to simply add some new things here and there in different places, that would account for those new circa-1968 elements. However, considering that each flower was meant to represent a state, that approach does not make sense. For example, there is no dahlia among the official state flowers – and yet there an orange-red one is, front and center, plopped right above and partly overhanging Kansas’ sunflower. And why not replace the now-missing #16, which looks to have been the Cherokee Rose of Georgia? And were the alterations made before, or after, Mr. Schwartz made his offer to purchase the Bouquet? Did he know that it was not (apparently) the same in all respects as the Fair’s display and, if so, did it matter? I have a hard time envisioning Marylin Chorlton approving an alteration that did not conform to the original intention of the design.

We cannot dismiss the possibility that there may have been two Flower Bouquets made … just in case a complete disaster befell the one originally destined for (or located at) the Fair. It would not have been the first time; for example, when the studio made the one-of-a-kind Saint Peter, destined as a gift for Pope Paul VI in 1964, there was definitely at least one extra made: A partly-finished “extra” was among items sold in the studio’s final liquidation in 2019. So it is not impossible that a “backup” Bouquet was created as well … perhaps in a slightly smaller size?

Or perhaps the black-and-white photo may represent the Bouquet in its ‘first draft’ form, which was later altered before the color photo was taken. But then why not use the ‘finalized’ photo for the 1970 museum exhibit catalog, instead of a photo that did not depict the final product? Even if the 1970 museum catalog was sent to the printer in 1969, that was still after the Bouquet had been sold to Mr. Schwartz in its present form.

There are many ‘maybes’ and ‘could haves’, but in the end we’re left with not knowing exactly what the Bouquet that people saw at the 1964 Worlds Fair looked like. That certainly would solve this mystery! If anyone happens to have taken a photograph of the Cybis Flower Bouquet of the United States when it was exhibited at the 1964 World’s Fair, I’d love to hear from you. There is a contact form at the link below; full credit will of course be given.  And if an additional example of the Bouquet has ended up in your curio cabinet or local art museum, I’ve love to hear about that too!

Name Index of Cybis Sculptures
Visual Index (for human figures/busts only)

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