Or are you looking for Search the Archives?

Please complete the form to email this item.

Pair of hand screens

Pair of hand screens

  • Place of origin:

    West Midlands (probably, made)
    Oxford (painting (image-making))

  • Date:

    1835-40 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Spiers & Son (retailer)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    papier-mâché, japanned, painted and gilded

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Mr M. L. Horn

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

Hand screens were used to shield the face from the warmth of the fire. Pairs of these screens were often part of a symmetrical arrangement of ornaments and other decorative objects on a mantelpiece. These examples are painted with views of Christ Church, Oxford, and were sold by Spiers & Son, High Street, Oxford. The shop, established in 1834, specialised in stock made of papier-mâché, and painted with views of the University buildings. Many of the smaller items, including these hand screens, were presumably bought as souvenirs by undergraduates or visitors. The shop premises included a workshop where customers could order their own decoration of family coats of arms and other personal designs to be painted on blanks such as boxes, trays, candlesticks or hand screens. Many of these blanks would have been made in the West Midlands, the centre of papier-mâché manufacture in Britain.

Place of Origin

West Midlands (probably, made)
Oxford (painting (image-making))


1835-40 (made)


Spiers & Son (retailer)

Materials and Techniques

papier-mâché, japanned, painted and gilded

Object history note

Although this pair of hand screens are stamped with the name, Spiers & Son Oxford, it is likely that this firm were responsible for the painted decoration only. Spiers & Son specialised in stock made of papier-mâché and decorated with views of Oxford, particularly the University buildings. The firm presumably bought these hand screens as papier-mâché blanks from manufacturers in the West Midlands and then decorated them in the painting shop on the premises.

Historical context note

Spiers & Son was established at 102 High Street, Oxford, by Richard James Spiers (1806-1877) in 1834 as a stationery and fancy goods shop and the business expanded subsequently to include premises at No. 103. Spiers & Son specialised in a wide range of objects made of papier-mâché, ranging from chairs, tables and screens, to pen trays, letter racks, and cigar cases, many articles decorated with views of Oxford. The shop frontage was illustrated in The Adventures of Mr Verdant Green by Cuthbert Bede, the pseudonym of Edward Bradley. This description of the adventures of a new Oxford undergraduate, published in 1853, included details of special purchases for family gifts, with decoration painted to order, a speciality of Spiers & Son.

Spiers & Son exhibited at the Great Exhibition in 1851, being awarded an Honourable Mention by the Jurors for their exhibits which included an extensive display in a glass case. They also exhibited in New York in 1853, winning a Prize Medal, and were awarded an Honourable Mention at the Paris Universelle Exhibition in 1855. By 1871 the firm was managed by R.J. Spiers's two sons. Although he petitioned for bankruptcy in 1872, the firm exhibited at the Paris Universal Exhibition in 1878. Spiers & Son finally closed in 1890.

Descriptive line

Pair of hand screens of papier-mâché, painted with views of Christ Church, Oxford, handle turned and gilded; sold by Spiers & Son, Oxford, 1835-1840

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

Japanned Papier-mâché and Tinware c.1740-1940, by Yvonne Jones, pp. 235-237.


Accessories; Architecture; Furniture; Household objects


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.