Decorative screens were being used in rooms in China by the 7th century. But they were not used in Europe until the 1500s. It wasn't until the 17th century that they became popular.

Screens originally were used to protect those nearby from the heat of a fireplace or the cold from a drafty door. Europeans found many uses — screening a bed, acting as a fake wall or hiding an unattractive view.

Movies often have a scene with a star changing costumes behind a screen in the dressing room.

In houses today, the screen can act as a giant painting exhibited in a bare corner.

Recently, Neal Auctions of New Orleans sold a three-panel Art Nouveau screen for $28,060. A picture of pink flamingos standing in blue water was painted on the front. Marie Hull (1890-1980), a well-known Southern artist, painted the birds. She is known for her pictures of birds and flowers.

Ironstone bowl

Q: I have a serving bowl that says, "Iron Stone detergent proof hand-painted Japan" on the back. There's no maker's mark. Can you tell me how old it is?

A: Ironstone china was first made in 1813 and gained its greatest popularity during the mid-19th century. A clue to the age of your bowl are the words "detergent proof," which was first used about 1944. Japan was under military occupation after World War II, and pieces made between 1945 and 1952 were marked "Made in Occupied Japan." Your bowl was made after 1952.

Restored doll

Q: My mother collected and restored dolls. After she died, I found a beautiful doll wrapped up and in a dresser drawer. The doll is 18 inches tall. The back of her head is marked "Made in Germany, Armand Marseille" and the number "390." There is a label on her body, between her shoulder blades, that says "Real Seeley Body USA." I'd like to sell the doll so someone can enjoy her. What do you think it's worth?

A: Dolls often were made with heads from one manufacturer and bodies from another. Armand Marseille was one of the world's largest makers of bisque dolls' heads. The company was in business in Koppelsdorf, Thuringia, Germany, from 1885 until the 1950s. The words "Made in Germany" were used on goods imported into the United States beginning in 1891. The number on the doll's head is the mold number. Seeley doll bodies are composition reproductions of antique doll bodies. Mildred Seeley founded her company in 1946. Your doll has an old head and a newer body, which lowers the value for a serious collector. The large size is a plus. Armand Marseille dolls are popular and some sell for several hundred dollars. Your doll with its newer body would sell for much less.

Write to: The Kovels, c/o King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th St., New York, NY 10019. The website is kovels.com.

current prices

Prices are from shows nationwide.

WWI rations tin, bacon, "Model of 1916" embossed on lid, green paint, rounded rectangle with flip lid, about 1910, 2 1/2 by 7 inches, $15.

Draughts and Chess game, Red Cross "services" set, plastic pieces with oilcloth board and cardboard box, P.O.W. parcel, 1940s, 13 by 13 inches, $50.

Bronze badge, Labor Day-Hawthorne Park, round with bullion work border, Pacific Regalia Mfg., about 1920s, $110.

Skyscraper ring, sterling-silver and marcasite with red garnet cabochon center, geometric art deco design, 1920s, Size 6, 1 inch long, $180.

Cigarette case, Mozart and Madame de Pompadour, embossed scene, silver plate with beechwood interior, about 1905, 1 1/5 by 8 inches, $335.

Elephant toy, stands on metal frame with wooden wheels, stuffed with excelsior, original eyes and saddle, France, 1910s, 8 inches, $535.

Hat box, lacquered cardboard, brown leather color, round with flip lid, fabric-lined, side latches and top handle, France, about 1905, 10 by 18 inches, $920.

Fireplace fire back, cast iron with raised relief, maiden with a harp in a field of cattails and crescent moon in sky, about 1890, 25 by 20 inches, $1,100.

Continental typewriter, glass keyboard and metal body in black with wooden case, Wanderer-Werke, about 1913, 18 by 28 inches, $1,950.