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Stove Plate: The Wedding Fable (left side panel)

ca.1768
Origin: America, Virginia, Frederick County
Overall: 24 x 27 1/4 x 1in (61 x 69.2 x 2.5cm) Weight: 102.5 lb (46.5 kg)
Cast iron
Gift of Abby Aldrich Rockefeller
Acc. No. 1932.809.1
A cast iron, left side stove plate showing, in low relief, a group of figures above a lower reserve enclosing scrolled designs. The figures consist of a male at far left and, at the right, three female figures. Between the man and women stands a tree, with a pair of breeches hanging out of it. The women hold handbells aloft.
Label:German-speaking emigrants probably brought a number of European-made cast iron five-plate stoves with them when they came to America in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, but stoves of this type construction were also manufactured at several foundries in America, primarily during the mid eighteenth century. Five-sided "jamb" stoves generally had decorative front and side plates that fitted together with plain top and bottom plates; the open back of the assembled stove was mortised directly into the wall of the room; the wall, at that point, opened into the side of a fireplace in the adjacent room.

Although unmarked, this left side plate is attributed to the Marlboro Furnace and is believed to have been cast in 1768 based on recorded examples of the inscribed and dated front plate that was made to accompany it (note2). The decoration on the front plate includes a betrothal scene, and the complete stove is often referred to as the "Marlboro wedding stove."

A theme of marital relations is continued on the left side plate, shown here. European peasant folklore provides the imagery, wherein a pair of man's breeches symbolize domestic authority; the breeches are shown hanging in a tree and are, thereby, unavailable to the women below. At the right, three women ring handbells in an attempt to "call down" the breeches while, at the left, a man in a frock coat derisively applauds their efforts. This traditional interpretation of the imagery on the plate gains credence by the fact that 1768 was a leap year, an occasion when, according to ancient tradition, " . . . Women weare breetches, petticoats are deare" (note 3).

Three of Marlboro's five jamb stove patterns, including AARFAC's no. 32.809.1, are stylistically attributable to the same carver, who may have been a man named Calhoun (probably James Calhoun) (note 4).
Provenance:Found in Shenandoah Co., Va., by Edith Gregor (The Downtown Gallery), New York, N. Y., and purchased from Halpert by Abby Aldrich Rockefeller,