9164 A RARE OVAL GILT WOOD MIRROR ALMOST CERTAINLY BY J.C. LILLIE Danish. Circa 1790. Measurements: Height: 60 1/2″ (154 cm) Width: 29″ (74 cm) Depth: 4 3/4″ (12cm)
Of giltwood. The old replaced oval mirror plate with a molded frame, with beaded decoration to the inner edge, flanked by bulrushes issuing the scrolling pierced crest, the crest surmounted by a floral spray, the whole terminating in pierced foliate scrolls issuing acanthus leaves and centered by an inverted pine cone finial.
The present mirror is the work of the celebrated Danish cabinet maker and designer J.C. Lillie (1760 – 1827). The first incumbent of the official post of Architect and Designer to the Danish Court from 1790, Lillie numbered among his patrons royalty and members of the country’s leading aristocratic families.1
A mirror of almost identical design to the present piece (figure 1) 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 ‘Haunted Room’, one of Liselund’s fantastical interiors, this mirror displays the same scrolling foliate crest, inverted finial and delicate floral and leaf decoration as the present piece.2 The present mirror is, however, distinguished by its unusual use of bullrushes in the composition of the oval.
The oval form, distinctive elongated crests and exquisite carving of both 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. The graceful and highly unusual naturalistic design of the present mirror and its pendant in the ‘Haunted Room’ is, however, unmatched.3
While its striking decoration is indicative of Lillie’s own inventive style, the overall form of the present mirror reveals his interest in English design. English neoclassicism exerted a profound influence on Danish design in the late eighteenth century and Lillie’s work alluded to the designs of Hepplewhite and, in particular, Robert Adam. For example the design of the oval composed of reeds terminating above in a double scroll divided by a central stem has affinities with Adam’s design for a girandole for Apsley House, London, dating from 1778 (figure 2).4
In addition, the quality of the craftsmanship of his work demonstrates his high regard for the “excellent mechanical skills” of workmanship to be found in England. Lillie’s outlook was truly international and the delicate form of the present mirror 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.5
Enjoying a long career at the heart of Danish fashionable society, Lillie’s most prestigious commissions included decorating the suite of Crown Prince Frederik and Princess Marie on the occasion of their marriage in 1790. The papers of the Lord High Steward, C.F. Numsen, record that his work was highly esteemed by the royal family, he himself writing in praising terms of Lillie’s ‘taste displayed in his drawings’ and ‘in the craftsmanship of his furniture’.6