andiron n : metal supports for logs in a fireplace; "the andirons were too hot to touch" [syn: firedog, dog, dog-iron]
EtymologyFrom the Old English anderne (aunderne, aundyre), from the Old French andier, from the French landier, From the Late Latin andena, (andela, anderia).
An andiron (older form anderne; med. Lat. andena, anderia), sometimes called a dog, dog iron, or firedog, is a horizontal iron bar upon which logs are laid for burning in an open fireplace. They are usually used in pairs. In older eras (e.g. sixteenth to eighteenth century AD) andirons were also used as a rest for a roasting spit or sometimes had a cup-shaped top to hold porridge. The earliest andirons were forged from wrought iron.
Andirons hold up the firewood so that a draft of air can pass around it, allowing proper burning (thus minimizing smoke). They typically stand upon short legs and are usually connected with an upright guard. This guard, which may be of iron, steel, copper, bronze, or even silver, is often elaborately ornamented with patterns or heraldic ornaments, such as the fleur-de-lis, with sphinxes, grotesque animals, mythological statuettes, or caryatides supporting heroic figures or emblems. Such a decoration in the form of a canine plays on the dual meanings of the word dog (canine and inanimate-holder-or-blocker).
Previous to the Italian Renaissance, andirons were almost invariably made entirely of iron and comparatively plain, but when the ordinary objects of the household became the care of the artist, the metalworker lavished skill and taste upon them. Even men such as Jean Berain, whose fancy was most especially applied to the ornamentation of Boulle furniture, sometimes designed them. Indeed the andiron reached its most artistic development under Louis XIV of France, and the first extant examples—often of cast iron—are to be found in French museums and royal palaces. Firedogs, with little or no ornament, were also used in kitchens, with ratcheted uprights for the spits. Very often these uprights branched out into arms or hobs for stewing or keeping food hot.