If this smokin' find doesn't light your fire, I'm not sure just what would! This 130 year old masterpiece manages to marry design and function in such an elegant way it just glows - literally. Take a look at this video about a handsome fireplace accessory that I discovered at a recent New England Antique Show's event. You don't need a hearth in your home or apartment to fall in love with this red-hot antique.
Just to fan the flames of interest, what we have here is antique cast iron fireback from around 1881 through 1883. The piece is roughly square and measures approximately 30" by 29". It is entitled "The Soul of The Sunflower" and features a majestic gold painted relief of the face of a god-like man, surrounded by what looks like rays of sun or a huge mane of hair! The piece is surrounded by a less elaborate black metal frame. A "fireback" is technically a protective accessory to line the back of a fireplace. However, this fireback was designed to be placed in front of the opening of a fireplace during the warmer months to close off the firebox as well as add a delightful focal point -and a feeling of affluence - to the room.
And speaking of souls, just who is spirit behind this fireback? This piece is attributed to Elihu Vedder, a multi-talented American painter, illustrator, and poet. He was born in 1836 in New York City. His parents somewhat reluctantly supported his dream of becoming an artist. He trained in the United States, Paris, and Italy, and began to experience success in the early 1860s. He was friends and colleagues with Walt Whitman, Herman Melville, and William Morris Hunt, and became a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1865.
In addition to his own work, Vedder also had commercial artistic success and national recognition. He was hired by Tiffany and Co. to design glassware, mosaics, and decorative items for their consumer lines. Perhaps his most visible works today are the murals that he painted in the Library of Congress in Washington, DC. Here on the left you can see a detail from his 1896 "Peace and Prosperity" mural which is located in the lobby leading into the main Reading Room. His work is also exhibited in dozens of prestigious galleries and museums across the nation, including the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the National Gallery of Art.
I would like to thank Susan Sorrentino of SB Antiques of Marblehead, MA for this great introduction to Elihu Vedder and his wonderful ability to light up a room. SB Antiques specializes in Civil War militaria, early American small furniture, advertising pieces, and small decorative items. SB Antiques is a regular exhibitor at New England Antique Shows' events and will be exhibiting at the upcoming Antiques at Elm Bank weekend in Wellesley, MA on June 11th and 12th, 2011. For more information on the Vedder fireback, contact Susan directly at email@example.com or 781-631-6230.
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