Or are you looking for Search the Archives?

Please complete the form to email this item.


  • Object:

    Dummy board

  • Place of origin:

    Great Britain (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1708 (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 larger-than-life image of the biblical figure Aaron, and its pair representing Moses, were made in about 1708 to stand on the top of the reredos, or screen, of St Swithin's Church, London Stone (in Cannon Street). They were removed in 1857 and stored in the belfry. In 1938 someone with an office overlooking the church saw that they had been put in the street and saved them from destruction.

Physical description

Larger than life-size cut-out figure of Aaron, holding a censer suspended on a chain. The figure is wearing blue tunic with a fringe of tassels along the lower edge over a white robe. Over the tunic is a blue coat decorated with embroidery. The figure is standing on a base painted to represent the moulded capital of a column, and shaped to fit over a pediment on the reredos.

Place of Origin

Great Britain (made)


ca. 1708 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Oil on wood


Height: 231 cm, Width: 80 cm, Depth: 2.5 cm board, Depth: 4.3 cm batten

Object history note

This figure and W.9-1939, Moses, were formerly in St Swithin, London Stone, from the top of the reredos. They were removed in 1857. The base is cut with a triangular shape to sit over a pediment.

Descriptive line

Painted figure of Aaron, oil on wood panel, British, ca.1708

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

Graham, Clare. Dummy Boards and Chimney Boards. Shire Album 214, Aylesbury: Shire Publications Ltd, 1988. 32 p., ill. ISBN 085263921X.





Subjects depicted



Paintings; Religion


Furniture and Woodwork Collection

Large image request

Please confirm you are using these images within the following terms and conditions, by acknowledging each of the following key points:

Please let us know how you intend to use the images you will be downloading.