Mangle board

Mangle board, c.1797
Attribution unknown
Wood
:583.42.39
© Russell-Cotes Art Gallery and Museum

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Mangle board, c.1797

Mangle boards or mangletrær are used to force the creases out of linen cloth, much like an iron does today. Mangle boards were paired with a roller, around which the slightly damp linen would be tightly wrapped. The mangle board would then be passed backwards and forwards over the roller with as much force as possible until the fabric was smoothed.

The mangle board, while remaining a functional object, became a courtship gift offered by a man to his bride-to-be prior to the wedding day. In some regions, the mangle board was used to make a wedding proposal official. A young man would carve a mangle board for the woman he wished to marry. The more elaborate the carving, the greater his love for her. He would hang the board outside her house. If she accepted his proposal, she would bring the board in. The same mangle board could not be offered to another woman, so if rejected, he would have to find a new woman and carve a new board.

This intricately carved Norwegian mangle board is decorated with carvings of flowers, angels, birds and a heart. The looped handle is carved in the form of a mermaid, which evokes the coastal culture and folklore of much of Norway. This mangle board, has the date ‘1797’ carved along the bottom edge of the mangle, which likely is its production date.

 

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