A truly remarkable piece of history, this rare fireback was cast in France in the late 1600’s. The fireback depicts the coat of arms of Henri Jules de Bourbon, Prince of Conde. Henri was a member of the cadet branch (officially The Most Serene House of Bourbon-Condé) of the House of Bourbon, a European dynasty that produced 17 French kings, 10 Spanish kings, two Kings of Etruria, and one King of Navarre.
The heraldic display features a central oval escutcheon with three fleur de lys charges. A scalloped leaf surrounds the shield and is topped with a five-point open crown. A pair of detached wings with C-scroll connectors flank the leaf. Other neighboring elements include a pair of volute scrolls, gadrooning, curled leaves, and foliate cups with roundel finials (although one finial is missing).
According to the book, Plaques De Cheminées Héraldiques, by Philippe Palasi, the fireback was cast in the workshops of La Hunaudière and La Forge-Neuve, in the area that is now known as Chateaubriant. The book is an encyclopedia of rare and historic firebacks, with the oldest listing being a fireback cast in 1498. Per Palasi, the Condes family owned the foundries since 1632, placing the casting of this plaque in the late 17th century, as Henri did not receive the title of prince de Condé until 1686.
Firebacks were first used in the 15th century, designed to radiate heat from wood-burning fires. Cast iron is very hearty and the firebacks would also protect the back wall of the fireplace. They can still be used in this fashion, but you may also see them used as a stove backsplash or simply as a decorative wall hanging. This fireback has been recently cleaned and lightly waxed to accentuate its wonderful details and unusual form.
CONDITION: Good antique condition with wear commensurate to age and use, including minor losses and erosion. Slightly faded elements, especially near the base of the fireback.