This almost square cast iron fireback from the 1800’s depicts a version of the Arms of France.
Before 1376, fleur de lys were presented on the Arms of France as seme, or an indefinite number. In this year, Charles V of France reduced the number of fleur de lys to three (referred to as “France modern”), to invoke the Holy Trinity. Another king, Francis I also made a change to the Arms of France in 1515, changing the open crown to a closed crown. Both of these alterations appear in the center of this fireback.
Surrounding these two elements are olive branches, which symbolizes peace. Beneath the center of the branches, a collar can be seen. There are typically strict rules as to how a collar may displayed, and ours, partially obscured by the escutcheon and leaves, is one of the accepted ways. In each corner of the fireback, a diagonally sloping inward facing fleur de lys can be seen. They are surrounded by a border that skirts the edges of all four sides. At the very bottom, the date “1708” can be seen, perhaps referencing the year that this fireback was first designed.
The first firebacks date to the 15th century, when they were placed on the back walls of fireplaces to protect the wall and to reflect heat back into the room. You may still use this piece as originally intended, or hang it above a stove as a kitchen backsplash. The fireback has been cleaned, yet retains a nice patina, with gentle wear to the decorative reliefs, especially the bottom portion.
CONDITION: Very good antique condition with slight fading to the elements at the bottom, which is commensurate to age and use.