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Concave mirror

Concave mirror

  • Place of origin:

    Great Britain (made)

  • Date:

    1820-1840 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Rosewood, carved, with brass columns and glass

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Messers H. Blairman and Sons

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This concave mirror may have been made as part of a pair with a convex mirror. Pairs of concave and convex mirrors were used to demonstrate how a source of light could be diverted in a different direction and for concentrating light on a particular point. They were designed either as free-standing mirrors, like this one, or as smaller examples which were placed on tables. A favourite trick, using these distorting mirrors, was to reflect firelight to suggest that another object in the room, for example the curtains, were alight. The decorative support and base of this mirror suggests that it might have been used in a domestic setting.

Physical description

Mirror, circular in rosewood frame with two gilt grooves. It is supported on a half-circular lacquered brass ring-frame, cast and chased with guilloche ornament. Circular handles at each side for adjusting the angel. The brass ring is supported on a tripod of carved rosewood, the upper part composed of three fluted and gilt columns stranding on a triangular plinth. The legs carved with acanthus ornament at the knees and ending in volutes of acanthus. Between each leg is a carved scallop shell.

Place of Origin

Great Britain (made)


1820-1840 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Rosewood, carved, with brass columns and glass


Height: 155 cm, Width: 102 cm, Depth: 68 cm

Object history note

Concave mirrors such as this one were made to allow of experiments in natural philosophy in the 18th century (what we would now call 'science'). The concave mirror allowed the experimenter to intensify and concentrate light and in the later 18th century was an important element in the development of telescopes by scholars such as Frederick Herschel (1738-1822). An image of a scientific use of such a mirror is incorporated in the marquetry decoration of a commode (chest of drawers) in the V&A collection (Museum no. W.22-1958). The design for the marquetry is based on a published engraving.

Descriptive line

Concave mirror, rosewood, carved, with brass stand and glass, British, 1820-1840.

Labels and date

ENGLISH; about 1800
On a rosewood tripod

Given by Mssrs H. Blairman & Sons [pre October 2000]


Rosewood; Glass; Brass


Furniture; Mirrors


Furniture and Woodwork Collection

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