An extremely fine and rare Charleston Neoclassical mahogany “pole” or fire-screen, circa 1815-1820

An extremely fine and rare Charleston Neoclassical mahogany “pole” or fire-screen, circa 1810-1820, attributed to the cabinet-shop of Jacob Henry (working in Charleston circa 1813-1827).

FS11(For a larger image, simply click on any photograph)

FS12JH6An acorn finial sits atop the octagonal shaped and reeded mahogany center rod and the “fire-screen” itself adjusts with a pulley on which hangs a “bell-shaped” metal weight of tassel-form. Below the squared and reeded mahogany post is a “bee-hive” ball or “ring-turned” vasiform support. The “pole-screen” has four reeded “saber” legs that terminate in carved “paw” feet. 

JH5JH1 FS13LFDIMENSIONS:  Height: 57″, Screen size measures 16″ x 12.5″.

JH3CONDITION: Exceptionally fine with a very old, likely original surface. No major repairs or alterations.  Minor shrinkage crack to base. The fire-screen’s pleated fabric is a later replacement.

PROVENANCE: The estate of O.F. Barrett, Jr., Bronxville, New York.

Shown below are the details of the very delicate “saber” legs with three “hoof or “paw” feet”:


NOTES: To date, only two Charleston, South Carolina Neoclassical “pole” or “fire-screen” have been documented; this present “pole-screen” and another shown in “The Furniture of Charleston, Volume II, Neoclassical Furniture” by John Bivins, Jr. and Bradford L. Rauschenberg, page 739, plate or Figure NT-97., shown below:

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Studying and identifying fire-screens made in the South is exceptionally difficult because of their attrition rate and the limited numbers of surviving examples, and very much like Chippendale tea tables, they generally lack any secondary woods. Any secondary wood on a fire-screen is generally found in the frame. Original fire-screen frames and scarcely encountered and when they do appear, they are more often than not are made of white pine during the American Neoclassical era (1785-1820). “The Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts” has documented only one Charleston, South Carolina fire-screen. It is shown on page 739, as Figure 97 in the book “The Furniture of Charleston 1680-1820, Volume II: Neoclassical Furniture”, by John Bivins, Jr. and Bradford L. Rauschenberg.

CABINETMAKER: Jacob Henry (b. 1794-d.1838) was a German immigrant who came to the The United States of America in 1803, first taking up residence in Beaufort, North Carolina, before moving south to Charleston. Henry was first mentioned as having been located in Charleston, South Carolina when a letter arrived to “To the Commissioners of the Orphan House”, in Charleston, South Carolina, pleading that “a Son of Mrs. Elizabeth Veronee, who is now under your Charge…. [I] desire to have him as an apprentice in the Cabinet makers business”. This apprenticeship was a limited success and was recorded in the “Indenture Books for Boys and Girls, 1791-1820”. On the 9th of December 1813, “William John Veronee” was formally indentured to Jacob Henry in a written document that was signed by both Henry and Veronee. Jacob Henry’s signature on this indenture is identical to the signature that appears on aforementioned signed Charleston, South Carolina mahogany sideboard that was discovered in Georgia in 1992, which appears as Figure NT-33, page 659, in the book by John Bivins, Jr. and Bradford L. Rauschenberg entitled “The Furniture of Charleston, 1680-1820”, Volume II, Neoclassical Furniture and is shown below:

002 (2)003Shown below: The very distinctive trademark “bee-hive” or “ring-turned” carvings that occurs on all Charleston Neoclassical case pieces and tables that are either attributed to or signed by Jacob Henry:

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Three Federal or Neoclassical games tables associated with the workshop of Jacob Henry appear in the same landmark research book as Figures NT-73 (which descended in the Kaminski family of Georgetown, South Carolina), NT-74 (which descended in the William Algernon family of Rose Hill Plantation, Charleston, South Carolina), and NT-75, (which descended in Langdon Cheves family {1776-1857} and Lang Syne Planation near Columbia, South Carolina) pages 714-716.      

Several documented pieces of Charleston Neoclassical share the same “bee-hive” motif that is found on the pedestal of this dining table, including three Neoclassical mahogany bedsteads, and most notably, a Charleston, South Carolina Federal mahogany and yellow-pine “Child’s crib”, circa 1800-1810, that was sold by Sumpter Priddy III and is shown below:


Of specific interest is the water color,  or “Washdrawing with touches of white on paper” shown below entitled “Friends and Amateurs in Musick” [sic], 1827, by Thomas Middleton, which shows a Neoclassical dining pedestal dining table with virtually the identical single “ring-turned” vasiform support. Photograph courtesy of the Carolina Art Association/Gibbes Museum of Art:

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IMPORTANT NOTE: This Neoclassical fire-screen was formerly property of “The Metropolitan Museum of Art”, New York. Copies of the sale documents from the Plaza Art Galleries (later Sotheby’s), New York, dated June 7, 1958, are shown below:


For additional information regarding this item, please contact C. Lyman McCallum, Jr. at 1~803~834~3787 or simply email us at As Always, your inquiries are welcomed!