I walked past a shop full of disembodied ceiling roses today, which when removed from their usual place on a ceiling and stacked together, look slightly surreal. Then I started wondering where the whole ceiling rose as ornament thing came from.
As it turns out, (or at least according to this site) they originally had a practical application…
"When first introduced towards the end of the 18th Century, gas lighting was viewed with suspicion. By 1816, 26 miles of gas mains had been laid in London for factory and street lighting but few houses adopted gas lighting before the second half of the 19th Century.
According to Dan Cruikshank and Neil Burton in Life in the Georgian City, the use of gas lighting in the new House of Commons in 1852 must have reassured many people of its safety, and perhaps marked the turning point in public perception. In the cities where gas mains supply was available, many houses adopted gas lighting from the 1860s.
These early fittings used ‘fishtail’ and ‘batwing’ burners, which were relatively inefficient. The flame smoked badly and in the more impressive houses built at this time, huge ceiling roses were designed to conceal ventilation grilles which conducted the fumes to a vent in the outside wall.”
Then, there’s also this from Wikipedia, which I guess explains the choice of imagery:
"The rose has symbolised secrecy since Roman times, due to a confused association with the Egyptian god Horus. For its associations with ceilings and confidentiality, refer to the Scottish Government’s Sub Rosa initiative.Through its promise of secrecy, the rose, suspended above a meeting table, symbolises the freedom to speak plainly without repurcussion. The physical carving of a rose on a ceiling was used for this purpose during the rule of England’s Tudor King Henry VIII and has over the centuries evolved into a standard item of domestic vernacular architecture, to such an extent that it now constitutes a term for the aforementioned circular device that conceals and comprises the wiring box for an overhead light fitting.”