M998.13.1 | Firescreen

About 1870, 19th century
114 x 68 x 13 cm
Gift of Mrs. George H. Montgomery
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  Screen (3)
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Keys to History

Firescreens were used in homes heated by open fires. They directed the heat away from the face of the person seated next to the fire, circulating it in the room.

This screen is of an Oriental influence that was popular in the 19th century. It would have been placed in the typical overcrowded Victorian parlour, which was stuffed with nonfunctional objects and curiosities such as animals and plants, both dead - preserved specimens displayed as decorations - and alive. The parlour was the room in the middle- and upper-middle class home in which families entertained and held tea parties.

This firescreen shows how natural history entered the Victorian home. Members of the middle and upper classes often studied natural history in their leisure time. As a reflection of this, decorative art and design incorporated animal and plant motifs in home furnishings.

  • What

    This firescreen consists of a mahogany frame and two tempered-glass panels containing 30 stuffed tropical birds and three butterflies.

  • Where

    A screen is intended to protect against cold drafts and the heat of an open fire, or to divide a room into distinct areas.

  • When

    In the Victorian period Japonisme was a popular style of decorative arts that employed elements of Japanese aesthetics.

  • Who

    The screen protected the delicate complexions of refined ladies and gentlemen who wanted to enjoy the heat of a fire without scorching their skin.