The Case of the Puzzling Panels 1

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These two shots are of the mantelpiece in our front room. At first sight it is just a decorated mantelpiece, probably put in after the house was rebuilt in the 18th Century. But it has some puzzling features. I am no house historian, but here are some speculations.

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The mantelpiece itself is quite flimsy and (apart from the panels) simply made; not at all the sort of thing you can still see in the grand houses of England from that period. The decorative plasterwork panels on it are of two different kinds; pastoral scenes and circular plant motifs. In fact the two side panels look as if they may have originally been the end sections of the central pastoral scene.  Furthermore at least these two side panels are screwed in place. So when might the mantelpiece have been fitted?

Machine made screws did not come into general use until around the 1760s, according to Wikipedia. This is well after the fire that destroyed the earlier house, so the panels are very unlikely to have been fitted during the original rebuild. However the mantelpiece itself could be a cheaply made original put in as part of the rebuilding. Alternatively could both mantelpiece and panels have been added much later, to replace whatever kind of fireplace was added after the fire? Tomorrow we will look behind the surface details of this case to see what other evidence there is, and what it might suggest… Smile

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2 Responses to The Case of the Puzzling Panels 1

  1. I’m not so sure the side panels are part of the central block- the Central is a harvest scene, whereas the two ladies either side look like musicians of some sort

  2. Trifocal says:

    Thank you for this; looking at them again I think you are probably right 🙂
    I took the one on the left to be scattering seed from a basket and the one on the left to be holding a triangular fishing net- but a stringed instrument and triangle are probably much more likely. The fact that they were a similar height also influenced me, as did the fact that the side panels seem to be squeezed into a position they were originally too wide to fit- as if they were leftovers that they didn’t want to waste. But then, if such panels were mass produced they would be made in standard sizes and widths anyway I suppose.

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