SCREEN (usually, but very doubtfully, connected with Lat. scrinium, a box for holding books, from scribere, to write; a connexion with Ger. Schranke, barrier, has .been suggested), in architecture, any construction subdividing one part of a building from another as a choir, chantry, chapel, etc. The earliest screens are the low marble podia, shutting off the chorus cantanlium in the Roman basilicas, and the perforated cancelli enclosing the bema, altar, and seats of the bishops and presbyters. The chief screens in a church are those which enclose the choir or the place where the breviary services are recited. This is done on the continent of Europe, not only by doors and screen-work, but also, when these are of open work, by curtains, the laity having no part in these services. In England screens were of two kinds: one of open woodwork; the other, massive enclosures of stonework enriched with niches, tabernacles, canopies, pinnacles, statues, crestings, etc., as at Canterbury, York, Gloucester, and many other places both in England and abroad (see ROOD and JUBE).
As an article of furniture, the screen is an ornamental frame, usually of wood, but sometimes of metal, for protection from observation, draught, or the heat of a fire. Screens are made of all shapes and sizes, and may consist of leather, paper or textile materials fastened to the framework; they may have several leaves or only one thus a fourfold screen has four leaves. Firescreens are usually small, with a single leaf indeed in the Georgian period of English furniture they often took the form of a circular, oval, heart-shaped or oblong piece of framed embroidery fixed to a wooden pole or upright, upon which they could be raised or lowered. This variety, which was called a pole-screen, was more effective as an ornament than as a protection. The hand-screen was light and portable, as the name implies. At the present time fire-screens are often of glass set in metal frames. The larger type of screen, with several leaves, is of uncertain origin, but probably first came into use towards the end of the 16th century. The earlier examples were of stamped or painted Spanish leather or of some rich stuff such as tapestry; at a later date lacquer was extensively used. They were tall enough to conceal the person sitting behind them, and were frequently exceedingly handsome and stately.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)