9802 A CHARMING PAIR OF RED-PAINTED AND GILTWOOD MIRRORS Possibly Italian. Circa 1820. Measurements: Height: 44″ (112 cm) Width: 26 1/2″ (67 cm) Depth: 2″ (5 cm)
Of giltwood with silver gilt decoration. Each frame surmounted by replaced cresting centered by a later rectangular mirror plate beneath a pagoda top and flanked by geometric fretted design and two stylized pagodas above a rectangular beveled mirror plate within a band of lotus leaf carving surrounded by a fretwork border, the eared corners applied with molded roundels.
The Italian fashion for Eastern decoration, manifest in the present pair of mirrors, began with the expansion of trade with China, leading to intensified taste for chinoiserie throughout Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries. Designers and architects to the courts created interiors that drew heavily on exotic styles based on the ceramics, furniture, and paintings imported from the East, and by the 18th century these items were being produced at in a number of European centers.
The Piedmont region in Italy was particularly famed for its elaborate chinoiserie interiors, more than two-dozen of which are preserved in palaces and villas of Turin, its capital city. The “Chinese Room” of one palace in particular, Palazzo Grosso in Riva di Chieri, Turin, features an extraordinary painted ceiling by Antonio and Giovanni Toricelli (Figure 1) that mimics the intricate patterns of Chinese latticework garden fences.
In a departure from the 18th century English and French rocaille predecessors, 19th century Italian chinoiserie designs were more angular and geometric. Similar lozenge and rectangular patterns to those on the Grosso ceiling are simulated in the frame of the present mirror, complementing the simplified pagoda forms at the corners and center of the cornice.