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Dummy board - Woman with Mirror (dummy board)

Woman with Mirror (dummy board)

  • Object:

    Dummy board

  • Place of origin:

    England (made)

  • Date:

    1630-1650 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Oil on wood

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

Dummy boards are life-size, flat, wooden figures painted and shaped in outline to resemble figures of servants, soldiers, children, and animals. The taste for using illusionistic painted figures as a form of house decoration probably originated in the trompe l’oeil, or life-like interior scenes painted by Dutch artists in the early 17th century. Dummy boards continued to be produced into the 19th century. They were placed in corners and on stairways to surprise visitors, or in front of empty fireplaces in the summer. Most were made by professional sign-painters, who also produced the hanging street signs prevalent until the late 18th century.

This life-size figure of a woman looking into a mirror is well-dressed, the style of clothes suggesting a date of about 1640. It came from East Sutton Park in Kent, and has carved wooden feet, the right foot projecting outwards. As she is looking into a mirror, she probably represents 'vanity'. The V&A collection has a companion dummy board showing the same figure holding a broom, representing 'industry'.

Physical description

Screen painted in oil colours on wood; representing a lady with small oval mirror in her left hand, right hand holding her hair which is brown and falls below the waist; she wears a pearl necklace and pendant pearl earrings, hair chain and bracelet; in olive green dress of floral pattern trimmed with gold braid, low-cut bodice, neck-trimmings, and cuffs of white linen edged with scalloped needle-point lace; large white apron similarly edged falling straight to the feet. Feet modelled in wood, right foot projecting, left foot straight to skirt.

Place of Origin

England (made)


1630-1650 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Oil on wood


Height: 5 ft, Width: 2.5 ft

Object history note

From East Sutton Park, Kent. Early 17th century.
From catalogue H. 5 ft. 1 in., W. 2 ft. 8 in.
(H. 154.9 cm, W. 81.3 cm)

Supposed to be copies of family portraits of the family of Sir Robert Filmer, of East Sutton Park, Staplehurst, Kent, who was a prominent Royalist and died in 1653. The figures, which were inherited from the Filmers, were bought in 1898 at the sale near Maidenhead of Mrs. Sankey, a daughter of Sir Edmund Filmer.
See 'Archaeological Journal,' Vol. LII, p. 1, 'Picture Board Dummies,' by R. S. Fergusson, 1895.

Descriptive line

Dummy board, woman with mirror, British ca. 1640

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

From: H. Clifford Smith, Catalogue of English Furniture & Woodwork
(London 1930), 663





Subjects depicted

Jewellery; Dress; Vanity; Woman; Mirror


Clothing; Jewellery; Fashion


Furniture and Woodwork Collection

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