Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
British Galleries, Room 118a

Mirror

1762-1765 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

Object Type
Although described as a mirror, this piece doubles as a girandole or sconce, 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 artificial light. Here, the girandole frame has become a vehicle for elaborate Rococo carving, with flowers, leaves, bullrushes and birds (cranes). The gilded carved surfaces also reflect candlelight.

Design & Designing
This mirror is very similar to designs for glass frames published by Thomas Chippendale (1718-1779) in the third edition of The Gentleman and Cabinet-Maker's Director (1762) as plates 167 and 168. Outlandish crane-like birds also feature in his design for 'girendoles', plate 178, which is dated 1760. Chippendale engaged a team of engravers to prepare his designs for publication, thus each of these three by him was engraved by a different hand (W. Foster, M. Darly and B. Clowes).

Materials & Making
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.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Carved and gilded pine, mirror glass and brass
Brief Description
Mirror (pier glass) of rococo form, with carved and gilded frame carved as C and S scrolls, palms, flowers and two long-beaked birds
Physical Description
Mirror in frame of carved gilt wood, formed of symmetrical scroll-work with flowers, leaves, two cranes and rococo ornament, the whole surmounted by a vase of flowers. At the base are three scrolled candle-branches.
Dimensions
  • Height: 213.5cm
  • Width: 137cm
  • Approx. weight: 84kg
Dimensions checked: Registered Description; 01/01/1998 by KN Weight was 114 in crate, subtract 30kg for crate = 84kg. Weighed by Keith Taylor 12/11/99.
Gallery Label
British Galleries: This mirror 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'.(27/03/2003)
Object history
Acquired in the sale of the collection of Ralph Bernal, Christie's, London, 5 March 1855, along with 2387-1855. The pair to this mirror (sold with it at the Bernal Sale) is now in a private collection and was exhibited as cat. no. 2.1 in the tercentenary exhibition 'Thomas Chippendale 1718-1779. A Celebration of British Craftsmanship and Design', held at Leeds City Museum, February to June 2018. That mirror is missing the vase cresting and the uppermost foliage behind the birds.



In 1934 Oliver Brackett suggested that the pair of mirrors were those that Chippendale supplied to the Duke of Portland in 1766 ('two very large oval glasses..... with three branches for candles') but this provenance is no longer deemed correct (see article by Leela Meinertas, 2015, under references). It does, however, seem possible to attribute the mirror to Chippendale, even though its provenance is unknown.



On display in the British Galleries since 2001.



Subjects depicted
Summary
Object Type
Although described as a mirror, this piece doubles as a girandole or sconce, 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 artificial light. Here, the girandole frame has become a vehicle for elaborate Rococo carving, with flowers, leaves, bullrushes and birds (cranes). The gilded carved surfaces also reflect candlelight.

Design & Designing
This mirror is very similar to designs for glass frames published by Thomas Chippendale (1718-1779) in the third edition of The Gentleman and Cabinet-Maker's Director (1762) as plates 167 and 168. Outlandish crane-like birds also feature in his design for 'girendoles', plate 178, which is dated 1760. Chippendale engaged a team of engravers to prepare his designs for publication, thus each of these three by him was engraved by a different hand (W. Foster, M. Darly and B. Clowes).

Materials & Making
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.
Bibliographic References
  • Leela Meinertas, 'The Portland Bill and the Mirrors', in Furniture History, vol. LI (2015), pp. 145-50. The mirror is illustrated as fig.3, p. 149.
  • Bowett, Adam and James Lomax, Thomas Chippendale 1718-1779. A Celebration of British Craftsmanship and Design. Catalogue of the Tercentenary Exhibition, Leeds City Museum, 2018 (Otley: The Chippendale Society, 2018), pp. 34-37, the V&A mirror illustrated on p. 34.
Collection
Accession Number
2388-1855

About this object record

Explore the Collections contains over a million catalogue records, and over half a million images. It is a working database that includes information compiled over the life of the museum. Some of our records may contain offensive and discriminatory language, or reflect outdated ideas, practice and analysis. We are committed to addressing these issues, and to review and update our records accordingly.

You can write to us to suggest improvements to the record.

Suggest Feedback

record createdMarch 27, 2003
Record URL