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Andiron

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An andiron (older form anderne; med. Lat. andena, anderia) is a horizontal iron bar, or bars, upon which logs are laid for burning in an open fireplace. In older eras (e.g. 16th to 18th century AD) andirons were also used as a rest for a roasting spit or may have a cup shaped top to hold porridge.

Andirons stand upon short legs and are usually connected with an upright guard. This guard, which may be of iron, steel, copper, bronze, or even silver, is often elaborately ornamented with conventional patterns or heraldic ornaments, such as the fleur-de-lis, with sphinxes, grotesque animals, mythological statuettes or caryatides supporting heroic figures or emblems. Sometimes they were referred to by the creature they portrayed, for example an andiron with a dog emblem could be called a firedog. In some locations, the word firedog came to be refer to any andiron, even those that did not sport dogs.

Previous to the Italian Renaissance, andirons were almost invariably made entirely of iron and comparatively plain, but when the ordinary objects of the household became the care of the artist, the metalworker lavished skill and taste upon them. Even men such as Jean Berain, whose fancy was most especially applied to the ornamentation of Boulle furniture, sometimes designed them. Indeed the andiron reached its most artistic development under Louis XIV of France, and the first extant examples—often of cast iron—are to be found in French museums and royal palaces. Firedogs, with little or no ornament, were also used in kitchens, with ratcheted uprights for the spits. Very often these uprights branched out into arms or hobs for stewing or keeping food hot.


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