From the Archive: A Spotlight On...Ianthe
An Art Nouveau icon, reinvented for every era
Over the last 120 years, Ianthe has become one of our most enduringly beloved and instantly recognisable artworks. To celebrate the Ianthe accessories collection, we take a glimpse into the archive to discover the beginnings of this most versatile of Liberty icons.
Art Nouveau sprung up in the 1890s-1910s, inspired by the organic sensuality of the natural world. Its artistic devotees rebelled against the distinction drawn between art and crafts, with designs created in furniture, jewellery, ceramics, glass and dress, along with painting and sculpture. Intrinsically associated with the Liberty store, Art Nouveau is still known in Italy as ‘Stile Liberty’. Ianthe is a quintessential example of Art Nouveau design, characterised by its sinuous, highly stylised layout of delicate flowers and curling lines.
Originally devised as a wallpaper border in c.1902 by French artist René Beauclair, Ianthe was first printed for Liberty in 1967 as part of the decade’s revival of ornate Art Nouveau styles. It was reimagined for the ‘swinging London’ market by the Haward Studio, a family textile firm who sold designs to Liberty for three generations, from the Edwardian era to the 1980s. After its ‘60s reintroduction Ianthe was an instant hit with Liberty’s Carnaby Street clientele, appearing originally on furnishing and dress fabrics before being developed for use on scarves. The design joined the Tana Classics collection in 1986.
Like the violets that possibly inspired its name, Ianthe reflowers for each new generation. It has appeared on designs for silk pyjamas, cotton bedding, fine jewellery and leather stationery, and was recently reworked in a new contemporary iteration known as Iphis – named after Ianthe’s lover from the Greek myth, as told in Ovid’s Metamorphoses. This season the artwork is celebrated within the Ianthe accessories collection, expertly printed in Italy on our signature coated canvas as a striking, stripped-back two-tone.