11487 AN ELEGANT PAIR OF GILTWOOD AND WHITE PAINTED NEOCLASSICAL OVAL MIRRORS PROBABLY BY JOSEPH CHRISTIAN LILLIE (1760–1827) Danish. Last Quarter of the Eighteenth Century. Measurements: Height: 65″ (165 cm) Width: 27 3/4″ (68 cm) Depth: 2″ (5 cm).
Of gilded and painted wood. Each mirror is surmounted by a complex tendrilous foliate carved upper section centered by a spiral turned motif topped by stylized palm leaves. The white painted and gilded oval mirror frame with ogee molded edge and pearl string sight molding. the lower section with conforming tendrilous foliate design issuing from an acanthus carved and inverted cone central section. Some very old replacements to carving. Minor recent repairs.
These mirrors are fine examples of the Danish taste for furniture in the English manner at the end of the eighteenth century.
Closely related mirrors were originally part of the furnishings at Langesø Castle (figure 1), Denmark, made circa 1760-80, today at Holstenshuus Castle. An important gouache, circa 1835, by Niels Ringe (1791-1854) shows one pair of mirrors hanging in the conservatory (figure 2a), while the other example is illustrated in figure 2b.
The overall form of the present mirrors, favored by Danish nobility, is indicative of the Danish enthusiasm for English furniture design at the end of the eighteenth century. A large oval mirror of comparable design can be seen on the left hand wall in Philip Reinagle’s quintessentially English portrait Mrs Congreve and her daughters of 17821 (figure 3). The oval frame alludes to the designs of Hepplewhite, Sheraton and, most of all, to the greatest architect in England at that time, Robert Adam. In addition, the quality of the craftsmanship demonstrates a high regard for the “excellent mechanical skills” of workmanship to be found in England.
The mirrors are also reminiscent of the work of Joseph Christian Lillie (1760 – 1827), Denmark’s most prominent furniture designer during the late eighteenth century. He became the first incumbent of the official post of Architect and Designer to the Danish Court in 1790 and numbered among his patrons royalty and members of the country’s leading aristocratic families.
A related mirror sharing characteristics in design to the present pair (figure 4) was supplied by Lillie to Liselund, the romantic country house built by the Prefect of Møns Antoine de la Calamette in 1792 and named after his wife, Lisa. Intended to hang in the ‘Monkey Room’, one of Liselund’s fantastical interiors, this mirror displays a similar scrolling foliate crest, inverted finial and delicate floral and leaf decoration as the present pair.2
The oval form, distinctive elongated crests and exquisite carving of the present mirrors are typical of Lillie’s oeuvre, and are shared with four other oval mirrors at Liselund supplied by Lillie. Individual elements from the present mirror can also be found on these examples, the scrolling inverted finials being an almost universal trait.
Lillie’s outlook was truly international and the delicate form of the present mirrors also exhibits an interest in “the lightness and beauty” of French decoration. He was conscious of his influences and strived to work in the best European traditions, aspiring to visit France and England to improve his knowledge.3
- S. Parissien, Adam Style, London, Phaidon, 1996, p.154.
- T. Clemmensen, Furniture by N.H. Jardin, C.F. Harsdorf and J.C. Lille, Copenhagen, National Museum of Denmark, 1973, p. 389, plate 121b.
- Clemmensen, p. 396.