Woman with Broom

Dummy Board
1630-1650 (made)
Woman with Broom thumbnail 1
Woman with Broom thumbnail 2
+2
images
Not currently on display at the V&A

Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

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.

The clothing on this figure dates from about 1640 and suggests that she is a wealthy lady rather than a servant, although she is holding a broom. The Museum also has a companion board with the same figure holding a mirror (Museum no. W.89-1921), so the pair probably represent 'industry' and 'vanity'.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Oil on wood
Brief Description
Dummy board figure of a woman with a broom, British ca.1640
Physical Description
Life-size figure of a woman with a ruff and a cap, holding a broom, painted on a wooden board cut to shape.



Screen representing a lady as a housemaid with a broom. She wears a plain green gown, probably intended for satin, the sleeves slashed showing white inner sleeves, the bodice close-fitting, with braided shoulder-pieces, and slightly open in front. Her short, wavy, auburn hair is covered by a close-fitting cap embroidered in black; she has a falling collar and cuffs edged with scalloped needle-point lace and a hair bracelet on the wrist; the large white apron, tucked up, is similarly edged with lace. Feet modelled in wood, left foot projecting.
Dimensions
  • Height: 156cm
  • Width: 91cm
  • Board depth: 4.3cm
  • Projecting toe depth: 8.3cm
  • Upright (though leaning slightly back) in display position depth: 33cm
Style
Object history
This dummy board and its pair came from East Sutton Park, Kent, the family of Sir Robert Filmer, a prominent royalist who died in 1653. It was bought in 1898 at the sale, near Maidenhead, of Mrs Sankey, who was a daughter of Sir Edmund Filmer.
Historical context
There is a similar figure of a sweeping woman at Lullingston Castle, Kent, and a related figure at Stoneleigh Abbey, Warwickshire. One was at Cobham Hall until it was auctioned in 1957. Although servants formed a large proportion of dummy boards, these figures do not appear to be servants at all, judging by their expensive dress. Figures of ladies sweeping may have been set up to encourage house-maids in their work. This figure has a companion dummy board, of a lady holding a mirror, so together they probably represented 'vanity' and 'industry'.



A reduced height (136cm) replica of this board offered at auction (Bonhams, London, 18/9/2018, lot 194), attrib. late 19th century.
Subjects depicted
Summary
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.



The clothing on this figure dates from about 1640 and suggests that she is a wealthy lady rather than a servant, although she is holding a broom. The Museum also has a companion board with the same figure holding a mirror (Museum no. W.89-1921), so the pair probably represent 'industry' and 'vanity'.
Associated Object
W.89-1921 (Set)
Bibliographic References
  • Graham, Clare. Dummy Boards and Chimney Boards. Shire Album 214, Aylesbury: Shire Publications Ltd, 1988. 32 p., ill. ISBN 085263921X.
  • From: H. Clifford Smith, Catalogue of English Furniture & Woodwork (London 1930), 663
  • Tara Hambling and Catherine Richardson, A Day in Early Modern England: Material Culture and Domestic Life, 1500-1700 (New Haven and London: Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, Yale University Press, 2017), fig. 159 p. 227
Collection
Accession Number
W.90-1921

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record createdJune 27, 2007
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