Dummy boards...I love ‘em. They are approximately life size trompe l’oeil figures painted on shaped boards to resemble people or pets. There isn’t perfect agreement on just when dummy boards first appeared, but certainly by the early 18th century there is evidence that they existed. Imagine yourself in a room lit only by candlelight, a figure standing in a shadowy corner or on a stair landing, perhaps seated by the fire. There are amusing stories of gentlemen trying to tip a dummy board servant, and of ladies shrieking in fright when encountering the mute figure.
Why am I fond of dummy boards? Because there’s humor, and mischief, and even a bit of pathos in them. History is humanized through these sorts of links to those who went before us.
The dummy boards pictured above were offered at auction recently by Bonhams. If you’re interested in reading more about dummy boards and their cousin the chimney board, you’ll find a link to a book about them here.