Pole fire screen
Object Place: Salem, Massachusetts, United States
Overall: 150.5 x 54.6 x 51.4 cm (59 1/4 x 21 1/2 x 20 1/4 in.)
Medium or Technique
Mahogany, embroidered basket design in gilded, beaded, and fluted oval frame
Richard and Mary B. Saltonstall Gallery (Gallery 121B)
The tripod base is composed of a turned shaft with three cabriole legs with C-scrolls and claw-and-ball feet. The top of the shaft is beaded while the body is carved with a grapevine. The vase-shaped shaft base has festoons of drapery, and below is a band of triglyph-and-rosette ornament. Between the legs are beaded ovals with carved rosettes on a punched ground. The borders of the C-scrolls are carved and each leg has a spray of grapevine, pendant from a bowknot, on the knee. The shaft is doweled into the base and is capped with a carved and gilded sheaf of wheat. Attached to the shaft by sliding rings, one of which is equipped with a thumbscrew to adjust the height, is an oval gilt frame carved with bands of beads, flutes and stylized leaves. It is surmounted by a carved and gilt basket of flowers and fruit.
The silk screen is embroidered in silk and satin with a basket of flowers framed with a running ivy vine, all pendant from a bowknot. The embroidery is worked in satin stitch on a cream-colored ground. The basket is in yellow and is filled with green leaves, small blue flowers, and large white blossoms with touches of red. The border is worked in brown with green for the leaves.
The back of the pine frame is covered around its edges with a floral stenciled paper, which was originally across the back. The backing of the screen is pine and a modern glass has been inserted to protect the embroidery.
Fire screens protected a woman’s complexion and heavy makeup from the heat and glare of the fire. They also provided a prominent place for women to display their needlework. Following a visit to Oak Hill, Reverend William Bentley, pastor of Salem’s East Church, recorded that “the work of the room was finished by the needle of Mrs. West.” The carving on the screen is related to the baskets of fruit and exotic flowers on the overmantel and above the door.
Made for Madam Elizabeth Derby (Mrs. Nathaniel West); descended in the West family to her grandson, William C. West; 1928, gift of Mrs. Wiliam C. (Abbie) West, 7 Summer Street, Salem, Massachusetts (Accession Date July 19, 1928)
Gift of Mrs. William C. West