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Fire Screen

Place Made:
Charleston South Carolina United States of America
Date Made:
mahogany, cypress
HOA 23 1/2; WOA 17 1/2
Accession Number:
DESCRIPTION: Neoclassical fire screen: Consists of a rectangular cypress frame with mahogany edge; cypress frame is covered on both sides with a reproduction wallpaper; fire screen is equipped with rings on the back to mount on a shaft supported by three out-curving legs terminating in spade feet; the top of the shaft is decorated with a replaced urn-shaped finial.

WALL PAPER: The wallpaper and border used on the screen, “Wt. Sattin Grass purples &c” and “Laurel Border” were originally block-printed by Duppa in London and hung in the drawing room of Prestwould Plantation in Mecklenburg County, Virginia, about 1799. “‘Wt. Sattin Grass purples &c” was the most expensive of the papers. “The higher cost of this paper reflected the labor required to create what was known as a satin ground–a highly polished surface that was then block-printed with the pattern.” (Nylander, R. C., pp. 168, 171) The wallpaper covering the fire screen is reproduced by Scalamandre and was contributed by the Prestwould Foundation.

FORM: Fire screens are listed in several inventories found in the Charleston County Wills and were considered by some appraisers to be of 2 parts, a stand and a frame. There are also several advertisements for the making, selling, painting, and paper covering of fire screens. For example, Richard Fowler, an upholsterer, advertised in the SOUTH CAROLINA GAZETTE; and COUNTRY JOURNAL in July 1766 his ability: “Fire Screens papered in the neatest Taste….”

Fire screens were designed as protective devices for their users from the heat of an open fire. The earliest on record were of wickerwork, used from the Middle Ages through the 18th century. Other fire screens were more elaborate consisting of a framed panel on legs. This type started being used in houses of the upper-class in the late 17th century and became very common in the 18th and 19th centuries. The most elaborate had either carved and gilded wooden frames or had panels of tapestry or silk and were sometimes embroidered.

This firescreen descended in the Ravenel family of 68 Broad Street in Charleston, South Carolina. The house was built for Daniel Ravenel (1762-1807) and his wife, Catherine Cordes Prioleau (1769-1849), between 1796 and 1800. It is probably the “fire Screen” valued at $2.00 listed in the 1807 probate inventory of Daniel Ravenel.
Credit Line:
Anonymous Gift