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Mirror

  • Place of origin:

    London (probably, made)

  • Date:

    1750-1760 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Johnson, Thomas, born 1714 (designer)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Carved and gilded wood

  • Credit Line:

    Bequeathed by Lady C. J. C. Wilson-Todd

  • Museum number:

    W.23-1949

  • Gallery location:

    British Galleries, Room 52, The George Levy Gallery, case WW

Object Type
This giltwood mirror is carved with forms and figures in the Chinoiserie style. Chinoiserie is a general term for Chinese decorative work and ornamental motifs in the Chinese taste. The whole of the mirror is surrounded by a pinnacle. All the interstices (the carved crevices) of the carving are filled by mirror glass. We do not know who made this mirror, but it may have been based on the engravings published as a book (but without a title) by Thomas Johnson in 1758.

People
Thomas Johnson (born 1714; died after 1778) was a carver and a gilder. He is known to have supplied mirrors in the early 1760s through the London upholsterer George Cole of Golden Square, Soho, to Paul Methuen at Corsham Court, Wiltshire, and the Duke of Atholl at Blair Castle in the Scottish Highlands.

Subjects Depicted
The mirror is ornamented with several Chinoiserie motifs, including fanciful buildings, robed figures and birds with long necks. They present a wholly fairy-tale version of China.

Places
Prior to its acquisition by the V&A, this mirror hung between the window piers in the Drawing Room at Halnaby Hall (formerly the seat of the Milbanke family), North Yorkshire. Halnaby Hall, a house with exceptional Rococo plasterwork, was demolished in 1952.

Place of Origin

London (probably, made)

Date

1750-1760 (made)

Artist/maker

Johnson, Thomas, born 1714 (designer)

Materials and Techniques

Carved and gilded wood

Dimensions

Height: 329 cm, Width: 118 cm, Weight: 120 kg estimated

Object history note

From the Drawing Room, Halnaby Hall near Darlington, formerly the seat of the Milbanke family.

Historical significance: Similar to designs published in 1758 by carver and gilder Thomas Johnson. (See Helena Hayward, Thomas Johnson and the English Rococo, 1964, plate 36.) A chinoiserie figure appears on one of Johnson's designs for girandoles (Hayward, plate 122) and a figure of a peasant in ragged clothes appears in Johnson's design for an overmantel (plate 87). Fountains with a triple cascade of water (plate 94), obelisks (figure 17) and ladders (figure 124) are all characteristic of Johnson's work. Johnson's 1758 book of designs was dedicated to Lord Blakeney, Grand President of the Antigallican Association and sold by Johnson from his premises at 'The Golden Boy' in Grafton Street, St. Ann's Westminster. The book included designs for glass frames, ovals, stands for candles, picture frames, slab frames, an organ, ceilings, chimney peices, brackets for figures, clock cases, girandoles, lanthorns, stands for china, silversmiths, table brackets, stove grates and watch cases.

Descriptive line

Giltwood mirror, carved with scrolls, plants, rocks icicles, architectural motifs and a figure in the Chinoiserie style. English (London), 1750-1760 or possibly 19th century. May be based upon designs by Thomas Johnson.

Labels and date

These mirror frames are similar to designs by the carver and gilder Thomas Johnson (1714-1778?). Prior to acqisition by the Museum they hung between the window piers in the drawing room at Halnaby Hall, Yorkshire (demolished 1952), a house with exceptional rococo plasterwork. However, their extreme elongated form suggests that they might date from the 19th rather than the 18th century. [1996]
Chinese motifs were very fashionable in Britain during the 1750s, when the Rococo style was at its peak. Craftsmen frequently combined Rococo scrollwork with fanciful Chinese figures, birds and animals. []

Production Note

Probably made 1750-1760 but possibly in the 19th century

Materials

Wood

Techniques

Carving; Gilding

Subjects depicted

Plants; Rocks; Scrolls (motifs); Architectural elements; Prisms

Categories

Glass; Household objects; British Galleries; Mirrors

Collection

Furniture and Woodwork Collection

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