Monday, February 3, 2014

Object of the Day, Museum Edition: An English Dummy Board, 1690

The Victoria & Albert Museum

We've looked at dummy boards here before.  I find them peculiar and fascinating.

What is a dummy board? Well, its exactly what you might think. Dummy boards are life-size, flat, wooden figures which are painted and shaped in outline to resemble figures--usually of servants, soldiers, children, and animals.

These come from the taste for using illusionistic painted figures as a form of decoration which first originated in the trompe l’oeil, or life-like interior murals and scenes which were initially painted by Dutch artists in the early Seventeenth century. Dummy Boards were placed in corners and on stairways to surprise visitors. Sometimes, they were set in front of empty fireplaces in the summer. Most of these odd ornaments were made by professional sign-painters.

Young women peeling apples were a popular theme. Here, we see an example from the Victoria & Albert Museum of such a dummy board of a seated young woman peeling apples into her apron on her lap. She is wears a brown dress with a low bodice laced in front in the style of the late Seventeenth Century.

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