COLLECTION: Household Accessories

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Painted Window Shade

1830-1850 (probably)
Origin: America, New England or New York (probably)
Overall: 65 1/4 x 40 x 1 1/2in. (165.7 x 101.6 x 3.8cm)
Oil paint on sized cotton; wooden bar and roller; brass cord wheel and tassel ring; iron nails; and tassel of wool, silk, and cotton over wood core
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. George J. Dittmar, Jr.
Acc. No. 1977.410.1
A window shade painted overall with a Chinoiserie scene and having a tassel pull, the shade rolled around a wooden bar. The cord for raising the shade is missing, as is the hardware used to attach the shade to the window frame. The nails originally attaching the shade to the roller are also missing and were replaced prior to acquisition with modern staples.

Artist/Maker unidentified.
Label:The use of paint-decorated window shades reached its zenith in America in 1820-1860 (note 1). Generally, shades painted overall (like the Museum's 77.410.1) peaked in popularity before the mid nineteenth century; by about 1850, fashion began to favor more restrained decoration, such as medallions, vignettes, or cartouches that were either centered on a plain ground or enclosed by borders (note 2).
Overall designs were predominantly romantic or exotic landscapes. Window shade establishments might distinguish these as Swiss, Italian, Irish, Spanish, Scottish, American, or Asiatic landscapes but, in fact, commercial suppliers were more concerned with depicting generic picturesqueness than realistic regional distinctions; their intent was to create fanciful moods, not to represent historical accuracy (note 3). Thus, the central motif of the Center's shade is an architectural fantasy featuring the unlikely combination of a pagoda roof, foliated arched windows, a lobed front gable, and a chippendale-style handrail.
In 1855 John and Jacob Hartshorn of Boston patented a roller spring that may have been the first such hardware used in this country (note 4); prior to that date, raising and lowering of the shade generally appears to have been accomplished by a cord and pulley system (note 5). The Center's shade is the earlier, spring-less kind, and one end of its roller bar retains the original fixed, grooved, brass wheel over which its cord passed.
Provenance:Ownership prior to AARFAM's donors is unknown.