Firescreens, London, England, c. 1755
Image ID: 7334
Collection: Karen Halttunen
Topic(s): Eighteenth Century, Williamsburg, 18th Century Furniture, 18th Century Interiors, Arts and Architecture, British Empire, Class Structure, Colonial America, Colonial Revival, Domesticity, Early National Period, Early Virginia, Environmental History, Immigrants, Individualism, Technology, Luxury, Middle-Class Culture, Nineteenth Century Furniture, Nineteenth Century Interiors, Parents, Children, Families, Plantation Interior, Technology, Work and Housing
Region(s): North America, United States, Europe
CA Standard(s): 8.12 - The transformation of the American economy and the changing social and political conditions…in response to the Industrial Revolution, 5.4 - Political, religious, social, and economic institutions that evolved in the colonial era. , 5.8 - The colonization, immigration, and settlement patterns of the American people from 1789 to the mid-1800s..., 8.1 - Major events preceding the founding of the nation and the development of American constitutional democracy, 8.4 - The aspirations and ideals of the people of the new nation
National Standard(s): Colonization and Settlement (1585-1763), Revolution and the New Nation (1754-1820s) , Expansion and Reform (1801-1861), Civil War and Reconstruction (1850-1877)
Card Text: Firescreens, London, England, c. 1755, for shielding a hearth when not in use or to prevent flying sparks or embers from entering a room. This pair of rococo carved mahogany fire screens has two reeded columnar stiles with blocked tops carved with four leaf-petaled flowers. Pineapple finials are carved on the square lower sections with descending bell-flowers and out-splayed legs with two scroll feet. Each is also carved with bell-flowers connected by two delicately turned, leaf-carved and reeded horizontal stretchers. The crests are carved with central rocaille shells and scrolling leaves. The pierced rococo foliate carving under-panel connects to an inner face of square stiles. The exceptional ability of mahogany to hold fine, delicate carving is fully realized in these outstanding screens. The maker is likely Thomas Chippendale for the Earl of Poulett. This form was known as a horse screen in the 18th c., referring to the central stretcher with four feet; the cheval ("horse") screen was kept in front of the empty fireplace to hide ashes and/or the empty grate. When homes were heated by burning logs in a fireplace, it was very hot within a few feet of the fire. It was very cold in the rest of the room, and water would freeze in a log cabin if kept more than ten feet from a heat source.
Most 18th-c. firescreens were made of wood or wood decorated with fabric, but never metal, which became too hot. High-back upholstered chairs and wooden firescreens were used to reduce the intense heat and glare of fires in the 17th and 18th cs., but in the 19th firescreens of many types were also used. By the 1860s, heating stoves were available, and firescreens were often more decorative than useful. These were used in front of smaller fires or empty fireplaces. Some late 19th c. screens were made of leaded stained glass, and brass or iron was used to hold the glass. These screens must have been impressive when the fire was lit and the flames shone through the colored glass. OH: 56"; OW: 27-3/4"; OD: 19". Mahogany, oak and silk (replaced).
Citation: Image and first text: Courtesy of The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, PO Box 1776, Williamsburg, VA 23187-1776. Museum Purchase. Acc. No. 1936-10,1. First text: "Firescreens." http://emuseum.history.org/view/objects/asitem/classification@7/722/title-asc?t:state:flow=97fb3650-b62a-494b-912a-6b0a 67ad7b46. All rights reserved. Our thanks to The Foundation. Second text: Ralph and Terry Kovel, "Fire screens help manage excess heat." https:// buffaloah.com/f/glos/f/firescreen.html. In Chuck LaChiusa, "Buffalo Architecture and History: Buffalo as an Architectural Museum: Illustrated FURNITURE Glossary." http://buffaloah.com/. © 2005 Chuck LaChiusa, Buffalo, NY. All rights reserved. April 10, 2019.