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Hand-held Fire Screen
about 1778-1780
Embroiderer:Attributed to Prudence Punderson , American, 1758 - 1784
Embroidery; silk thread on a plain-woven silk ground, wood
Primary Dimensions (height including handle x width): 15 3/16 x 10 3/4in. (38.6 x 27.3cm)
Credit Line: Gift of Newton C. Brainard
Gallery Copy: This delicately embroidered fire screen epitomizes late eighteenth-century gentility. Made of expensive, imported silks, a firescreen was used to protect the user’s face from fireplace heat. It evokes a lifestyle of wealth and leisure, with time to dally before a well-stoked fire, hands free to hold a screen, and mind engaged in polite conversation. As small, genteel accessories, fire screens may have been given by Prudence Punderson (Rossiter) as gifts to various relatives, which would account for the different histories of ownership and present condition of screens in the collection.
Description: Fire screen consisting of a shaped plain-woven silk screen decorated with hand-stitched silk embroidery and supported by a hand-held wooden handle. The firescreen is worked in pink, white, green, black, brown, and light blue silk thread on a plain-woven dark green silk ground, using satin stitch and other stitches. One side of the firescreen is decorated with two birds, each over a small spray of flowers; this is surrounded by a circular wreath of purple grapes or berries on a vine. The opposite side is decorated with twelve sprays of flowers on a short stem. The firescreen is constructed of a stiff board, or paper, between the two green silk sides of the screen; these layers are joined at the edge by hand-stitched light blue, bias-cut fabric binding. The wooden handle is constructed of a single piece of wood with a slit to support the screen; the upper portion of the handle has two nails to join the screen to the handle. Stitches: The principal stitch on the firescreen is satin; it also includes encroaching satin, outline and flat. Condition: There are a few very small holes in each side of the firescreen. The binding and handle are replaced.
Source Note: The embroidered birds on the firescreen are probably based on an image found in The Artists Vade-Mecum published by Robert Sayer in London in 1776. (Hunt 3/6/2007)
Object Number: 1962.28.8
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