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Mirror frame - Calverley Toilet Service
  • Calverley Toilet Service
    Fowle, William, born 1658 - died 1684
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Calverley Toilet Service

  • Object:

    Mirror frame

  • Place of origin:

    London (made)

  • Date:

    1683-1684 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Fowle, William, born 1658 - died 1684 (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Silver, cast and chased

  • Credit Line:

    Bequeathed by Sir Walter Calverley Trevelyan, Bt

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    British Galleries, Room 54a, case 2

Object Type
The term 'toilet service' refers to the mirror, boxes and dishes that were found on a lady's dressing table in the 17th and 18th centuries. The mirror is made of embossed and cast silver fixed over a wooden frame. It would have been used when arranging a hair-style and applying make-up. The silver is embossed with acanthus leaves and the top portion shows the ancient Greek myth of Phaeton pleading with his father Helios, the sun-god, to allow him to drive his chariot. Glass was still very expensive and this would have been a valued item.

A silver toilet service was often a gift to a bride from a wealthy groom. This mirror is part of a service (Museum nos. 240&A to M-1879) that was bought for Julia Blackett, the eldest daughter of Sir William Blackett, by her intended husband Sir Walter Calverley. This is recorded in his diary: 'On Tuesday, the 17th of January, 1706-7 I was married to Miss Julia Blackett...I and my mother were at the cost of a fine set of dressing plate for my wife, came to 116l. odd money...'.

Recent research has identified the silversmith, whose mark 'WF' is found on this service, as William Fowle (1658-1684). He was apprenticed to the well-known silversmith, Arthur Manwaring, and went into business independently in 1681. He specialised in making toilet services.

Social Class
Matching sets of toilet silver originated in 17th-century France in conjunction with the custom of the levée. This was a practice popular among the upper classes, in which friends and family would be invited to witness the dressing and adornment of noble ladies.

Physical description

Mirror Frame from the Calverley Set

Place of Origin

London (made)


1683-1684 (made)


Fowle, William, born 1658 - died 1684 (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Silver, cast and chased

Marks and inscriptions

WF for William Fowles, see David Mitchell essay, Burlington Magazine, 1994

Town mark: London


Height: 51.8 cm, Width: 44.5 cm, Depth: 4 cm

Object history note

Probably made in London by William Fowle (born in 1658, died in 1684) after designs by Guglielmo della Porta (active 1534, died in Rome, 1577)

Descriptive line

Calverley Toilet Service

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

Mitchell, David. ‘Dressing Plate by the ‘unknown’ London silversmith ‘WF’’, The Bvrlington Magazine, cxxxv, no. 1083 (June 1993), 386-400

Labels and date

British Galleries:

[consists of 1 mirror frame, 2 tazzas, 2 large round boxes with lids and 2 small round boxes with lids, 2 rectangular boxes with lid, 2 large vessels with lids and 2 small vases with lids, 1 pincushion]

In about 1700 a silver toilet set was a customary wedding gift for a wealthy bride from her husband. It was intended for display in the wife's private apartments and included caskets for jewels or gloves, pincushions, pots for cosmetics and trays for pins, as well as an impressive mirror. This set was over twenty years old when Sir Walter Calverley bought it in 1707 for œ119, little more than the cost of the silver by weight. [27/03/2003]


British Galleries


Metalwork Collection

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