Our one inch thick cast iron fireback was produced in France, circa 1900, and features a heraldic display topped by an epitaph written in Old French. Seul contre tous (written as SEVL CONTRE TOVS) is French for “alone against all”. The quote is a reference to the Latin motto, Nec pluribus impar (untranslatable, but the implied meaning is “not unequal to many”), which was adopted by Louis XIV of France. Louis war secretary, Louvois, interpreted the Latin as “alone against all”, an attitude that led to France engaging in three major wars over the 72 year reign of Louis XIV.
The French inscription appears on a crinkled ribbon beneath the arched top of the rectangular fireback. Beneath the banner is a closed crown atop a heraldic shield with the Arms of France (three fleur de lys). The shield has fluted edges, a scrolled top, and a pair of closed eagle supporters (shown in profile and at rest). Spears and musket barrels can be seen behind both birds, harkening back to the overall theme of standing alone against Europe. A foliate border surrounds the coat of arms, abutting against the edge of the fireback. There is a faded date inscription at the bottom (most likely 1678), bracketed by a pair of fleur de lys, possibly coinciding with the birth of Louis’ son, Louis Alexandre, Count of Toulouse.
Firebacks have been used for centuries as a method for reflecting heat from fireplaces back into the room. Although our Seul contre tous fireback can still be used for this purpose, they are sometimes used today as decorative architectural elements. The fireback can be inserted into a wall or hung above a kitchen stove, serving as a backsplash.
CONDITION: Good antique condition, with fleabites as a product of the casting process. Some faded elements, specifically at the bottom, commensurate to age and use.