Last year I was contacted by Florizelle, a historian-come-curator (my definition) working with incredible zeal on a really interesting blog called Le Divan Fumoir Bohémien. The site documents a diverse selection of themes: a wandering journey through art, fashion, interiors, product design, history and more. As a result most weeks I've discovered something that has hit a chord. Florizelle introduced me to dummy boards. She showcased them on the site and I instantly went out and bought Shire Album number 214: Dummy Boards and Chimney Boards by Clare Graham. Dummy boards are the distant relatives of those figures that you still occasionally see outside restaurants, proffering menus to a world too busy to notice.
In the 17th and 18th centuries though, these fullsize and life-like flat wooden figures were found in domestic environments. Influenced by the trompe l'oeil style, they stood quietly in corners, often deliberately placed to take guests by surprise. They provided light, by holding lamps or candles, or conveniently covered fireplaces that weren't in use during the summer months.
Dummy boards modelled on servants were the most popular. The pair of boards above are Vanity and Industry and would probably have been placed in a hall. The figure would have been based around the lady of the house (look at her jewelley and lace), acting as a constant reminder to employees to work hard. This work hard ethic was further reiterated by Vanity.