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Mirror

  • Place of origin:

    London (probably, made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1774 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Carved and gilded pinewood, with ornament in metal and composition

  • Museum number:

    W.66-1938

  • Gallery location:

    British Galleries, Room 118; The Wolfson Gallery, case 5

Object Type
Overmantel mirrors hung above the fireplace, and at this period were often designed to integrate with the overall decorative scheme of a room. Gilded frames were popular, and often extremely elaborate. This example is designed in the Neo-classical style popularised by Robert Adam (1728-1792) in the second half of the 18th century.

Places
The mirror came from the Drawing Room at Bradbourne Hall, Kent, which was decorated in the Adam style in 1774 for Sir Roger Twisden, 6th Baronet. The focus of the room was a coloured marble mantelpiece said to have come from Italy. It is possible that the designer of the room was inspired by the chimney-piece, as similar Neo-classical motifs are repeated on both the plaster ceiling and mirror.

Materials & Making
Some of the decoration is executed in composition, or 'compo', a doughy substance made of whiting, resin and size which could be moulded and shaped into motifs. The surface of the frame is water gilt. Water gilding requires a gesso ground onto which several thin layers of an adhesive clay known as bole are applied. The gold leaf is then 'laid down' after covering the surface in cold water.

Subjects Depicted
On the cresting sit two winged gryphons, mythical creatures with the head, wings and claws of an eagle, and the body and hind legs of a lion. Similar gryphons appear in contemporary designs for decorative plasterwork by Robert Adam, for example on the ceilings of the Gallery and Hall at Harewood House, Yorkshire, and in the Long Gallery at Syon House on the south-west edge of London.

Physical description

Mirror, pinewood, cavred and gilt. The frame is rectangular with wavy outline at the top, formed of concave moulding carved with water-leaf pattern. Applied to the glass in the two upper corners are circular medallions with pendant husks; in the centre of the top are applied husks and foliage. Above the frame a cresting carved in openwork and consisting of a vase with acanthus foliage above and below it, the handles being connected by festooned drapery with two confronting winged gryphons, whose tails terminate in foliated scrolls. At the side the frame has two scrolled buttresses with foliage decoration; the base carved with vertical fluting, in the centre with a ram's head and husks.

Place of Origin

London (probably, made)

Date

ca. 1774 (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Carved and gilded pinewood, with ornament in metal and composition

Dimensions

Height: 208 cm, Width: 196 cm, Depth: 15 cm

Object history note

Made for Sir Roger Twisden, 6th Baronet (died in 1779) for the Drawing Room, Bradbourne House, Larkfield, Kent. Probably made in London

Purchased from Moss Harris & Sons, 44 New Oxford Street, London WC1, November 1938 for £150 (Registered File 4814/38, on Nominal File MA/1/H857 Harris M. Sons). It was noted that the mirror was visible in a photograph of the drawing-room at Bradbourne, published in Country Life 24 August 1918, p. 157. When acquired by Messrs Harris, the gryphons had been reversed and portions of the scrolling had to be replaced. It was purchased with the help of the Murray Fund.

Descriptive line

Mirror, carved and gilded pine, English, 1770-75,

Labels and date

British Galleries:
By the mid-1770s, the Adam style had become a general fashion, reaching most areas of the applied arts. This mirror contains several characteristic Adam decorative motifs, some moulded rather than carved. They include the winged gryphons on the cresting, the vases with rectilinear handles and the ram's head tablet at the base. [27/03/2003]

Production Note

Made for Sir Roger Twisden, 6th Baronet (died in 1779) for the Drawing Room, Bradbourne House, Larkfield, Kent

Materials

Mirror glass; Pine

Techniques

Carving; Gilding

Categories

Furniture; Mirrors

Collection

Furniture and Woodwork Collection

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