18th Century Norwegian Carved Birch and Polychrome Decorated Mangling Board
18th Century Norwegian Carved Birch and Polychrome Decorated Mangling Board
18th Century Norwegian Carved Birch and Polychrome Decorated Mangling Board
18th Century Norwegian Carved Birch and Polychrome Decorated Mangling Board

18th Century Norwegian Carved Birch and Polychrome Decorated Mangling Board

1777 Norway

Offered by Thomas Coulborn & Sons


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A carved birch mangling board, the upper face with a moulded edge with chip carved geometrical roundels around the central panel of decorative carving painted in green, red and yellow. Mounted with a pierced handle in the form of a stylised standing horse, rendered with a long neck with mane. Carved with the date: ‘ANO 1777’.
Animal-shaped handles, exemplified by the horse is this example, were often favoured in Norway, Denmark and Sweden.
In his book 'Treen & Other Wooden Bygones', Pinto includes a section on mangling boards, in which he describes them as a domestic implement, formerly used in many parts of Europe, but more particularly in Scandinavia and Friesland, which would have been used to smooth out linen or clothing as it passed through a mangle, before being discarded for the flat iron. A mangling board was used in conjunction with a roller. Ian McNeil explains: ‘During the sixteenth century the mangling board and roller came into general use. The idea spread from Holland, Denmark and northern Germany.... The material was wrapped round the roller... which was placed on a flat table. The mangling board [was] then passed backwards and forwards over the roller until the fabric was smoothed... The idea was exported by Dutch colonists, particularly to North America and South Africa.’ (Ian McNeil, 'An Encyclopedia of the History of Technology' (Routledge, 1990).) This action was a hand version of the wheel and chain operated box mangle. While the board could be beautifully decorated on one side – sometimes with carved initials and dates as in this example – the roller had to be smooth and plain for effective ‘ironing’. Pinto explains that Scandinavian and Friesland mangling boards, as in this example, were handsomely caved and Scandinavian examples were often brightly painted on the face, serving a secondary purpose as ornaments in the home and as a reminder of man’s prowess in carving. Making an attractive mangling board, such as this one, is a part of the winter’s ‘husflid’, traditional carving which is carried out during the long winter months when it is not possible to work outside. These highly carved mangling boards were not only used as ornaments within the home, but were also sometimes hung outside the entrance door to the house, to signify that the owner took in laundry. (Edward H. Pinto, 'Treen & Other Wooden Bygones' (Bell & Hyman, London, 1979), p.153).
By tradition, mangling boards became a popular courtship gift, devices that were hand-carved by men to be given to their brides at the time when they became engaged. They often bore the year of manufacture and the initials of the recipient. The primary objects created and offered by male suitors were tools and implements related to domestic tasks – the spinning, weaving, cleaning, smoothing and other working of cloths, as young women invariably spent their days working together with textiles and the suitors’ gifts enabled the girls to show off to their colleagues and friends. It was a sign of honour to have a beautifully carved and painted mangle board hanging on your wall. (see Robert Young’s article ‘Folk Art Love Tokens’ in 'Antique Collecting', September 2011, pp.20-24).
Much of northern Europe used to be covered in forests of birch and pine. These woods are good for general carpentry, but not suited to fine and detailed carving. Traditional decoration therefore tends to be large and bold with geometric and floral chip carved patterns, often highlighted with brightly coloured paint work, as in this example. Pinto explains that Scandinavian mangling boards were thicker and heavier than board from Friesland (northern Netherlands) because wood was more abundant there, particularly birch and pine, whereas boards from Friesland were much lighter and made of oak.
Bibliography: For a similar mangling board also with a handle shaped as a horse and dated 1833, see Edward H. Pinto, 'Treen & Other Wooden Bygones' (Bell & Hyman, London, 1979), Plate 153, Figure F.
See also:
K Uldall, 'Gammel Dansk Folkekunst' (Thaning & Appels Forlag, 1966), pp.87-90.
Axel Steensberg, 'Dansk Bonde Møbler' (Kobenhavn, Alfr. G. Hassings, 1964), plates 460/466.
Height 15.00 cm (5.91 inches)
Width 63.50 cm (25.00 inches)
Depth 14.50 cm (5.71 inches)
Stock Code
Carved birch.
Carved with the date: 'ANO 1777’.
Thomas Coulborn & Sons

Thomas Coulborn & Sons
Vesey Manor
64 Birmingham Road
Sutton Coldfield
West Midlands
B72 1QP

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