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Mirror

  • Place of origin:

    Great Britain (Probably London, made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1765 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Gilt wood (pine or lime); brass candle sockets and drip pans (the left hand set missing)

    The mirror frame is carved in two layers. The lower frame is carved with background elements of bullrushes and much of the floral ornament. On top of this is a second layer with further detailed ornament. On top of this are the separately carved three dimensional elements which are glued or screwed into the frame. These include the two 'ho-ho' birds and the carved floral swags disguising the joints in the glass. The back of the birds have holes where the carver fixed the wood to the bench to hold the block in place. Many elements of the carved detail are thought to be replacements; the head of the PL bird and a section of the applied scroll on the lower section of the main oval mirror. The carving in both these areas is very flat and lifeless compared to the rest.

    Gilding:
    Examination of the gilded finish showed that the original scheme is a combination of both burnished watergilding and oil gilding. The burnished water gilding is over a grey pink bole and is still present on many of the areas of high relief carved detail. Close examination shows that the rest of the frame was originally oil gilded. Most of the original oil gilding and some areas of the original burnished gilding has been overgilded with unburnished water gilding over a bright red bole.

  • Museum number:

    2387-1855

  • Gallery location:

    Furniture, Room 133, The Dr Susan Weber Gallery, case BY9, shelf WALL

Although here labelled as a mirror, this type of object in the 18th century was also described as a girandole or sconce. It is fitted with three arms to support candles. The mirror glass reflects the candlelight to increase the volume of light. Earlier sconces had metal backplates which also reflected candle light. Here, the girandole frame has become a vehicle for elaborate Rococo carving, with flowers, leaves, bullrushes and birds (cranes often called ho-ho birds). The gilded carved surfaces also reflect candlelight.

This frame is very close to some of Chippendale's published designs. It may have been made in his workshop, or by another highly-skilled carver taking ideas from his designs. Carvers routinely varied details of a design as they worked. In his notes to another design, Chippendale advised that 'A skilful Carver may, in the Execution of this and the following Designs, give full Scope to his Capacity'.

Large sheets of plate glass were imported from France at this date. The complex design of this mirror incorporates both smaller and larger sections of glass. For the smaller sections, offcuts from larger pieces could be used, thus making the most of this expensive material.

Physical description

Mirror in an elaborate, oval frame of carved and gilt wood formed of symmetrical scroll-work with flowers, leaves, bullrushes, two cranes and rococo ornament. The carved ornaments divide the mirror into several lights. At the base are three scrolled candle branches. The left hand candle socket and drip pan are missing.

Gilding:

Place of Origin

Great Britain (Probably London, made)

Date

ca. 1765 (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Gilt wood (pine or lime); brass candle sockets and drip pans (the left hand set missing)

The mirror frame is carved in two layers. The lower frame is carved with background elements of bullrushes and much of the floral ornament. On top of this is a second layer with further detailed ornament. On top of this are the separately carved three dimensional elements which are glued or screwed into the frame. These include the two 'ho-ho' birds and the carved floral swags disguising the joints in the glass. The back of the birds have holes where the carver fixed the wood to the bench to hold the block in place. Many elements of the carved detail are thought to be replacements; the head of the PL bird and a section of the applied scroll on the lower section of the main oval mirror. The carving in both these areas is very flat and lifeless compared to the rest.

Gilding:
Examination of the gilded finish showed that the original scheme is a combination of both burnished watergilding and oil gilding. The burnished water gilding is over a grey pink bole and is still present on many of the areas of high relief carved detail. Close examination shows that the rest of the frame was originally oil gilded. Most of the original oil gilding and some areas of the original burnished gilding has been overgilded with unburnished water gilding over a bright red bole.

Dimensions

Height: 74 in approximate, Width: 43 in approximate

Object history note

Purchased from the Bernal sale

Museum negative 74591 shows this on display in Gallery 40 in 1936 as part of a display of Georgian furniture. Part of it is just visible on the extreme left of the photo.

Descriptive line

Mirror in an elaborate, oval frame of carved and gilt wood formed of symmetrical floral scroll-work. The carved ornaments divide the mirror into several lights. English, ca. 1765.

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

Leela Meinertas, 'The Portland Bill and the Mirrors', in Furniture History, vol. LI (2015), pp. 145-50. The mirror is illustrated as fig.2, p. 148.

Labels and date

One of two mirrors supplied by Thomas Chippendale to the third Duke of Portland and charged for on the 28th October 1766, 'Two very large carved frames Gilt in burnished Gold, with three branches for candles to each and brass pans, Noselles to Ditto.' [ca. 1976]
The mirror is similar to designs published by Thomas Chippendale in The Gentleman and Cabinet-Maker's Director 1762. It would have been one of a pair. [May 1996]
The mirror is similar to designs published by Thomas Chippendale in The Gentleman and Cabinet-Maker's Director (3rd edition, 1762), about which he advised: 'A Skilful Carver may, in the Execution of this and the following Designs, give full Scope to his Capacity'. Formerly part of the collection of Ralph Bernal. [1996]
Mirror
About 1762–5
Based on a design by Thomas Chippendale (1718–79)

England (London)
Frame: softwood or lime, with many replacement sections
Gilding: water- and mordant-gilded, with later water gilding
Mirror: glass with mercury–tin amalgam (the top and central sections replaced)
Candle sconces: brass or bronze

Museum no. 2387-1855

The carving of frames was generally an independent trade. This frame is constructed from many elements, each one carved along the grain to exploit the natural strength of the wood. The sections were then nailed and glued onto a carved sub-frame, on which the glass had already been secured. After assembly the joints were concealed by gilding. [01/12/2012]

Production Note

Attributed to Chippendale. In John Hungerford Pollen's catalogue Ancient and Modern Furniture and Woodwork, 1874, this mirror and the other acquired by the Museum at the Bernal Collection Sale (2388-1855) were attributed to Chippendale on stylistic grounds. Oliver Brackett linked them to two 'very large oval Glasses' supplied by Chippendale to the Duke of Portland in 1766, in his 1924 book on Chippendale. The mirrors are not a pair. However, they were both originally part of separate pairs. The mirror is similar in style to some plates in the Director (Pls. CLXVII and CLXVIII) but this is not an indication that it was made by Chippendale.

Materials

Wood; Brass; Gilt

Techniques

Carving; Gilding

Subjects depicted

Leaves (plant materials); Scrolls (motifs); Crane (bird); Flowers (plants)

Categories

Mirrors

Collection

Furniture and Woodwork Collection

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