Fireplace Firebacks

Made of cast iron and placed at the back of the fireplace, what is a fireplace fireback?
Often called "cast iron fireback", this fireplace accessory is used to send the heat from the firebox back into the room and to keep it from being trapped in the walls. This includes the great firebacks in castles, but every fireplace has one. They are at the heart of the home and of high importance. They are a useful object, but they also feature a decoration that is often a family memory, as they are adorned with the family's coat of arms.
Heraldic motifs are the commonly found firebacks decoration, but they can also be adorned with other designs, such as mythological or allegorical scenes, military scenes, human or animal figures. There is often a secondary design around the central one.
The oldest firebacks were made in the 1400's, but they became popular during the 16th century, and production peaked at the 18th century.

During the French Revolution, a decree ordered the destruction of all fireplace firebacks. During this time, possessing a fireback adorned with royal attributes was enough to make the owner suspicious and to send him to the guillotine. In order to salvage them (and for the owners to save themselves), many firebacks were turned around in the fireplace firebox.
Firebacks were subject to a sort of craze during the 19th century, and a large number of antique firebacks were reissued. Today, we still have some quite exceptional, well-preserved firebacks from the 18th century, as well as some beautiful reissues from the 19th and 20th centuries (there have not been many original firebacks since the Second Empire).

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