Fire screen

Salem, Essex county, Massachusetts, United States
ca. 1790–1810
Physical Description:
Height, pole: 61 in.; Height, screen: 21 1/2 in.; Width, screen: 23 in.
Mahogany; silk; gilding
Sack catalogue description: Original catalogue description (1974 and October 1974) – Mahogany fire screen with gilt decoration, Chippendale in form with Federal influence, tripod base with finely sculptured claw-and-ball feet; C-scrolled borders, rosette and leaf-carved knees, the spiral column is supported on a fluted urn; the fluted spiral design and spiral repeated on the flame finial which has a gilt beaded base, the original large oval screen has a molded frame with gilt beaded inner border enclosing a beautifully preserved silkwork embroidery showcasing a cluster of flowers tied with a bowknot with an outer floral border in brilliant colors, original finish and gilding. This fire screen descended in the family of Elias Haskett Derby of Salem and was obtained from direct descendants. Comparison of this screen with other Derby masterpieces in the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, is rewarding. Comparisons include: 1) The magnificent Samuel McIntire fire screen, illustrated in Randall, American Furniture, pl. 114–114A. The cabriole, the precision sculpture of the claw-and-ball feet, and the C-scrolled borders suggest the same hand. Another interesting relationship is in the pattern of the embroidery, the bowknot in this example holding the cluster while in the MFA Boston's example, the basket suspends from a similar bowknot; the floral borders of both screens are also similar. 2) The superb dressing glass, illustrated in Hipkiss, The M. & M. Karolik Collection, pl. 136. The rosettes that border the glass and from which the drapery supports suspend are the same as the rosettes on the knees of this screen. The form and carvings of this screen are more understated and less Classical in their expression, suggesting the theory that it slightly predates the richer McIntire example at the MFA Boston, and served as the inspiration for Elias Haskett Derby or Elizabeth Derby to emulate on a more ambitious scale. Updated catalogue description (1979) – There is very little doubt that the end of the eighteenth century in Boston and Salem produced some of the most beautiful examples of all the regions. The earlier Chippendale forms have been lightened and refined and mixed with the classical elements coming into style. This fire screen combines these elements with a very successful example and achieves this in particular by the spiral carved polescreen base, which in most examples stands out like a stick on a base. The harmonious confluences of design in this rich admixture result in the same degree of aesthetic excellence as the bombé Cogswell chest in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the Lemon McIntire chest-on-chest in the same institution (Karolik collection), and the Barrell bombé secretary with the McIntire carved upper case and classical figure ornaments in the Winterthur Museum.
Related objects: Book: Richard H. Randall, Jr., American Furniture in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (Meriden, Conn.: Meriden Gravure Co., 1965), pl. 114–114A. Book: Edwin J. Hipkiss, Eighteenth-Century American Arts: The M. and M. Karolik Collection of Paintings, Drawings, Engravings, Furniture &c. from 1720 to 1820 Boston, Mass.: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 1950), pl. 136.
Bibliography: Book: American Antiques from Israel Sack Collection, 10 vols. (Washington, D.C.: Highland House Publishers, 1957–1990), vol. 5, p. 1119, 1156–1157, pl. P4029; vol. 6, p. 17, pl. P4029.
Variant Titles:
Mahogany fire screen with gilt decoration
Decoration and ornament--Chippendale style
Furniture--United States
Accession Number:
fire screens (furniture) (AAT)
Physical Object
Content Type:
Furnishings & Decorative Arts
Prints & Photographs
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Access Restrictions:
Source Title:
Israel Sack, Inc., Archive
Source Created:
New York, New York, United States
Source Note:
Sack, 1974; Sack, October 1974; Sack, 1979
This information is taken from the Israel Sack Furniture Archive and may not reflect current scholarship.
Folder 10319 cab1dr3 tiff
Yale Collection:
Yale University Art Gallery
Digital Collection:
Israel Sack Furniture Archive
oid pointer:

Number of Pages: 5
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