This beautiful fire screen was crafted in the Régence period (1715-1723), when Philippe d’Orléans (a nephew of Louis XIV) ruled France as Prince Regent, until Louis XV was old enough to become king. The arts in these years began to move away from the grandeur of the Baroque of Louis XIV’s court towards the more delicate, light-hearted character of the Rococo, which later came to define the rule of Louis XV. With its scrollwork, seashell motifs, foliate and floral decoration, this fire screen is a wonderful example of early Rococo Régence style design.
The body of the fire screen is composed of a tapestry, which was produced in the north French town, Beauvais. Founded in 1664 under the direction of the finance minister to King Louis XIV, Jean-Baptiste Colbert, the Beauvais Manufactory was one of the leading producers of tapestries in the late 17th and 18th Century. The images woven into this tapestry panel wonderfully reflect its function as a fire screen. It depicts Vulcan, the ancient Roman god of fire, metalworking and the forge, holding a blacksmith’s hammer, and sitting on a plinth, decorated with an anvil. Vulcan sits beneath a seashell, at the top of a light pink trelliswork arch, which is decorated with colourful festoons. The plinth Vulcan sits on is flanked by fruiting branches, and pastel-coloured scrolled foliage, topped by exotic birds. A wooden frame, delicately carved with scrolled acanthus leaves and seashells, encloses the tapestry. This is set on scrolled feet.