Vase with Gladioli
Little is known about this painting’s author, Gladys Marion Stephenson. Stephenson was born in Chicago, Illinois in 1904 and passed away in 1934. She was a young art teacher and painter who favoured landscapes and floral scenes. The back of this painting features the inscription, “Gladys Marion Stephenson, 1904–1934, American, Iowa Teacher, Member of the Chicago Art Institute.” This painting appears to be in excellent condition, complete with an attractive wooden frame painted in ivory. The composition consists of a vase filled with overflowing gladiolus plants. The long stems, curling leaves, and lush, coloured petals appear to be crafted from delicate layers of rich watercolour paint. Named for their appearance and shape, the term gladiolus comes from the suffix of gladius, meaning sword in Latin. Translated, gladius means “little sword.” In botanical literature, this plant is meant to pierce the heart of the recipient like a sword, channeling infatuation. Additionally, botanists believe the gladiolus symbolizes remembrance, moral integrity, faithfulness, and strength of character. This beautiful painting would add an elegant floral touch to any wall it graces.
At this time in Chicago, prohibition was adhered to in the city from 1920–1933, after the passing of the national Volstead Act in 1920. Prohibition banned the production and sale of alcoholic beverages, and caused organised crime to triple in Chicago. This led to what is now known as the “Gangster Era,” as many criminal organisations became involved in bootlegging, a violent yet profitable undertaking. Famous mobsters like Al Capone (1899–1947) and Bugs Moran (1893–1957) were active in the city at this time.