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Design for a pier-glass from; A Miscellaneous Collection of Original Designs, made, and for the most part executed, during an extensive Practice of many years in the first line of his Profession, by John Linnell, Upholsterer Carver & Cabinet Maker. Selected from his Portfolios at his Decease, by C. H. Tatham Architect. AD 1800.

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    Great Britain (made)

  • Date:

    late 18th century (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Linnell, John, born 1729 - died 1796 (designers)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    pencil, pen and wash

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Prints & Drawings Study Room, level E, case W, shelf 8, box C8

This design for a pier-glass demonstrates Linnell’s combination of chinoiserie-inspired imagery with rococo forms. The rococo was a style which became popular during the first half of the 18th century, characterised by asymmetrical detail and curved decorative forms. Often, designers such as Linnell would combine chinoiserie motifs with the freedom of rococo detail to create fantastical imagery such as in this design. Chinoiserie (the style inspired by art and design from China, Japan and other Asian countries) was extremely popular throughout the 18th century and the social elite frequently adorned their homes with Chinoiserie-inspired objects and Asian imports.

The squawking bird which is perched at the top of the pier-glass is a motif which features regularly within Linnell’s pier-glass designs. Other designers and carvers such as Thomas Johnson also used figures and animals within their designs. Such forms were often inspired by the ornamental engravings by French designers such as Bernard Toro, Jean Berain and the illustrations of Aesop’s Fables by Francis Barlow.

Pier-glasses were usually placed on the wall in between two windows. While they served as an effective lighting device (where they would reflect the light from nearby candles), they were also used as important decorative features. This design is delicately presented and may have been intended for a client, however Linnell has not incorporated any colour into this design suggesting that the emphasis here is upon form.

Physical description

A design for a pier-glass with chinoiserie-style features. The mirror is divided by architectural detail and upward scrolling branches and foliage. The pier glass features decorative details such as vases, steps and a hut at the top, creating the vision of a mythical Chinese garden. On top of the hut is a squawking bird, possibly from Chinese mythology. One of a set of designs for furniture, including chairs and state beds, interior decoration, including pier glasses, and architectural fittings including chimney pieces and doors. In a volume.

Place of Origin

Great Britain (made)


late 18th century (made)


Linnell, John, born 1729 - died 1796 (designers)

Materials and Techniques

pencil, pen and wash


Height: 22 cm, Width: 13.8 cm

Descriptive line

Design for a pier-glass in pencil, pen and wash, from a volume of designs for furniture, interior decoration and architectural fittings, by John Linnell, Great Britain, late 18th century

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Victoria and Albert Museum, Department of Engraving, Illustration and Design and Department of Paintings, Accessions 1929, London: Board of Education, 1930.
Hayward, H. and Kirkham, P. William and John Linnell Eighteenth Century London Furniture Makers, London; Studio Vista, Christie’s (1980)


Pencil; Ink; Wash; Paper (fiber product)



Subjects depicted

Steps; Subject; Vases; Bird; Branches; Hut


Designs; Drawings


Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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