Faces in the Fire
Elihu Vedder American
Like so many artists of the Aesthetic movement, Vedder enjoyed experimenting with various media. Although he was primarily a painter, he also undertook decorative sculpture, ceramic-tile and stained-glass design, and book illustration. While living in New York in the early 1880s, he completed a series of decorative firebacks featuring themes of warmth appropriate to the hearth. This low-relief panel, modeled in Rome, relates to the firebacks aesthetically and thematically. Its idealized subject and ten classicizing heads reveal Vedder's interest in the English Pre-Raphaelite and Symbolist movements. Faces resembling the artist’s wife and deceased sons appear at top right, evoking what Vedder described as "lost or absent friends" brought to life in the fire’s dying glow.