Sunday, February 9, 2014

Her Majesty's Furniture: The Bainbridge Firescreen, 1850

The Victoria & Albert Museum

This firescreen rests on trestle supports with turned and gilded uprights.  The frame is panel glazed and set with stuffed birds.  This unusual, yet handsome, piece comes from Great Britain and was made circa 1850.  

This is so very Victorian in design.
  This was an era when taxidermy birds and animals were considered fashionable and appropriate accessories employed in a variety of uses.  Victorian artists were fascinated with nature and the culture as a whole was intrigued with the idea of exploring the natural world.  

Of course, as new animals were discovered, these same explorers were determined to find uses for their beautiful fur and plumage—not thinking that entire species would die out.
  In one way, this use of animals is tragic, and, yet, we are somewhat fortunate in that many extinct species are still viewable because they’ve been preserved in works of art such as this.  

Many fire screens were employed to keep the direct heat of the fire off of those seated near the hearth.
  This fire screen would not have been good for that. Taxidermy and fire don’t mix.  Instead, this would have made a handsome showpiece in the summer, hiding an empty, unused hearth.   

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