11031 PAINTED FIREBOARD DEPICTING A BRICK FIREPLACE. American. Nineteenth Century. Measurements: 30 1/2″ x 31″
Of joined pine boards, oil painted to appear as a bricked chimney aperture.
A fireboard, or chimney board, was a wooden panel designed to cover a fireplace during the warmer months when it went unused. They were especially popular in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Not only did the board provide a decorative covering for the dirty interior of the fireplace, but it also prevented insects or birds from entering a home through a damperless chimney.
“Fireboards may be perfectly plain, painted, or wallpapered to match the room in which they were used, or they might be embellished with a special wallpaper or design or decorative painting of a landscape, a large vase of flowers, or a trompe l’oeil depiction of the hearth itself…”1 as in the case of the present board.
A fireboard in North Sunderland, Massachusetts, circa 1825, is painted in a similar fashion as a red brick fireplace, but with the added addition of trompe l’oeil fire tools (figure 1).
It is most unusual to have only the brickwork depicted and, consequent to this, the piece is imbued with a rather contemporary quality.
1. Nylander, Jane C. Our Own Snug Fireside: Images of the New England Home 1760-1860. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1994. 127.