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"Stag and Sun" Fireback

ca.1768-1781
Origin: America, Massachusetts
Overall (two pieces together): 28 3/4 x 26 x 1 1/4in. (73 x 66 x 3.2cm) Overall (larger piece): 28 x 21 1/2 x 1 1/4in. (71.1 x 54.6 x 3.2cm) Overall (smaller piece): 19 x 13 1/2 x 1 1/4in. (48.3 x 34.3 x 3.2cm)
Cast iron
Gift of Robert Pyle
Acc. No. 2012-154,A&B
Iron fireback, cast in high relief, of "tombstone" form with foliate and geometric top and side borders. Central panel with an anthropomorphic sun shining down on a stag leaping to the right, with a tree to his rear. Below is a foliate ribbon bearing the partially incomplete legend SOLD BY IAMES RUSELES.
Label:Cast in unusually high relief, this leaping stag and blazing sun fireback is amongst the most bold and handsome cast in colonial America. Thought to have been produced in Massachusetts, slightly different versions were sold by two different retailers, including Joseph Webb of Boston. This example is one of a very few known carrying the legend SOLD BY IAMES RUSELES, a yet-identified merchant, on the banner below the scene. While the stag is a symbol of strength, a sun with a human face was seen on other early American products like the Benjamin Franklin-designed stoves of the early 1740s and the Continental Currency issues of 1776.

An identical fireback by Ruseles remains in the fireplace of the state drawing room at the Jeremiah Lee house in Marblehead Massachusetts, where it is believed to have been installed in 1768.
Provenance:Ex. coll. Bernice Chrysler Garbisch, sold by Sotheby Parke Bernet, New York, May 23-25, 1980, lot 1015.