Early Art Nouveau in America: The Mulcaster Plaque

Butterfly Child
Mulcaster Plaque
1885
Terracotta

This very appealing and curiously early example of American Art Nouveau suggests that the style existed in America from the beginnings of the movement. Butterfly Child - as I am calling it - is a terracotta panel from the Mulcaster Building which was on 3rd Avenue and 68th Street in Manhattan. Its designer is unknown.

It is placed outside the Brooklyn Museum facing the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens. Its descriptive placard reads as follows:

This delightful image of a butterfly-child sipping nectar from blossoms through a straw is cast in low relief with great delicacy. The highly naturalistic though improbable combination of human, insect, and plant life is conceived in the spirit of an Art Nouveau fantasy. This style of decoration, popular in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, displayed organically flowing, often highly stylized plant forms and found expression not only in architecture, but in design, illustration, and even dress.

Butterfly Child sideview
Mulcaster Plaque
1885
Terracotta