Umbrella holders are made of all materials such as plastic, ceramic, wire or wood. They are also designed in all different shapes and sizes. Some are made to hold one umbrella where others hold multiple umbrellas at the same time. In general, umbrella holders were designed as a place for wet umbrellas to be stored so that water would not be tracked into the interior of a building or home. Umbrella holders also help with safety of interiors considering floors being less slippery, resulting in fewer accidents or falls. Most umbrella holders or stands have a leak proof exterior and water absorbent interior to collect water or liquid.
The material used in the umbrella holder reserved in the Nichols House Museum Permanent Collection is porcelain. China is the originator of this sturdy, smooth material that is sometimes considered fine china. Taking into account the durability and luster, porcelain rapidly became a necessity of daily life for the middle and upper classes during the Shang Dynasty. Porcelain was used to make many household items such as dishes, dolls, instruments, jewelry boxes, and lastly umbrella holders.
Painting, glazing and decoration were often added to fired porcelain pieces for added details and appeal. Chinese porcelain pieces are often decorated with dragons, fish, nature scenes or a repetitive pattern.
As far as the umbrella holder kept in the Nichols House Museum Permanent Collection it takes in a cylinder shape and is ornamented with green. The scene depicts men on horseback, a couple, and alternating bird and flower pattern. The border is adorned with moths, flowers, and Taoist symbols and the interior is glazed white.
Gold enamel is also added to highlight areas of the scene. It stands 23” tall and is about 10” in diameter, and dates back to 1845-1855. During this time middle and upper class families probably displayed this functional piece of art next to the entrance or foyer of the home. Today the umbrella holder still remains part of anthology at the Nichols House Museum and leaves us to wonder what it’s original home was like.