This fireplace is intricately hand-carved in the Gothic style, something rarely seen among antique offerings. Unlike other forms of Gothic furniture faithfully revived by 19th century French designers, fireplaces were designed de novo. In Medieval times, fireplaces were extremely large and relied upon to heat large, high-ceilinged spaces, and for cooking. As a result, they were made of stone whose heat-conducting and fire-resistant properties were superior to wood. By the 19th century, however, when stoves were for cooking and fireplaces took on a more decorative role, wood became the material of choice with walnut prized for its suitability for intricate carving. Despite the lack of Medieval models, 19th century craftsmen simply grafted their repertoire of design elements onto the basic shape of the fireplace or mantel.
In this case, the emphasis is on fenestrage (tracery), referring to the intricate patterns of gothic architecture and stained glass featuring pointed arches and quatre feuilles (quatrefoils). The side panels bear the linen-fold design, also characteristic of French Gothic, but in a particularly refined treatment. Even the firebox reflects the Gothic theme with the center of the top coming to a point. The origin of coat-of-arms carved into the central frieze remains a mystery.
Boussel, Patrice, Les Styles du Moyen Age à Louis XIV (Baschet et Cie, Paris, 1979); Burckhardt, Monica, Mobilier Moyen-Age, Renaissance (Editions Ch. Massin, Paris, Undated); Viollet-le-Duc, Eugène, Le Mobilier Médiéval (Georges Bernage, editor) (Editions Heimdal, 2003)
This fireplace is ideal for any room where Gothic or Tudor style is evoked.