or, a potted history of dummy boards.
First appearing in the seventeenth-century, dummy boards are painted (usually on wood) silhouettes of people and occasionally animals (figures 1 & 2).
Animals and domestic figures are normally life size, though some dummy boards were created larger than life in order to intimidate or scare the observer viz., wealthy households would often post effigies of their supposed private militia (figures 3-6) around the house and grounds to frighten off or deter would-be thieves whilst the family was away taking the waters or on a Grand Tour.
One infamous Lancastrian decided to line the three colonnades of his mansion with dozens of dummy boards portraying armed soldiers. An acquaintance and frequent antagonist in neighbouring Yorkshire took affront at the outrageous display and mounted an attack on the house with his own militia, cutting all the ‘soldiers’ down in a hail of lead balls.
Much more common are the domestic dummy boards representing pets and exotic animals (figures 7-9) and domestic servants (figures 10-14) which were dotted about the interiors of vast houses to reinforce the impression of wealth and status to the casual observer as they meandered around large rooms and glanced through enfilades.
Gazebos and follies were also populated with dummy boards of sightseers – a popular pastime during the latter half of the eighteenth-century – (figures 15 & 16).
Other areas of the grounds were similarly occupied by gardeners and various rustic workers (figure 17).