9418 A FINE PAIR OF GILTWOOD NEOCLASSICAL MIRRORS IN THE MANNER OF J.C. LILLIE Probably Danish. Circa 1780. Measurements: Height: 59 1/2″ (151cm) Width: 22″ (56cm)
Of giltwood and carved gesso. Each surmounted by an urn decorated with acanthus leaves and flanked by ram’s masks issuing wheatsheaf, the ram’s heads issuing foliate pendants, the oval mirror plates enclosed by an oval frame with beaded molding, the whole terminating in a giltwood ribbon issuing foliate husks below and foliate sprigs to the lower edge of the oval.
The present mirrors are reminiscent of the work of the celebrated Danish cabinet maker J.C. Lillie and are fine examples of the Danish taste for furniture in the English manner at the end of the eighteenth century.
The oval form and finely detailed floral decoration of the present pieces is comparable to a series of mirrors made by Lillie in 1793 for Liselund, the country house of the prefect of Møns. A naturalistic crest of the same intricate carving can be seen in a mirror intended for the ‘Haunted Room’, while a mirror in the ‘Garden Room’ is draped with a floral garland in a similar manner to the present pair. These mirrors also share with the present pair distinctive elongated crests typical of Lillie’s work.1
The articulated ribbon motif on the inverted finial of the present mirrors can be seen on two oval mirrors at Liselund, one in the garden room, and on the garlands supplied by Lillie above a pier glass in the Royal Amalienborg Palace.2
The overall form of the present mirror is indicative of the Danish enthusiasm for English furniture design at the end of the eighteenth century. Their oval frame alludes to the designs of Adam, Hepplewhite and Sheraton, and a large oval mirror of comparable design can be seen in the background of Reinagle’s quintessentially English portrait Mrs Congreve and her daughters of 1782.3 Their design owes most to the greatest architect in England at that time, Robert Adam. A garland of similar composition to those of the present mirrors can be seen on a drawing by Adam for a chimney piece at Derby House, while motifs of bows, floral sprigs, rams heads and foliate chains familiar from the present mirrors all appear in his decoration for the Etruscan Dressing Room in Osterley Park.4
Robert Adam’s ‘Etruscan’ style became fashionable among sophisticated noble circles in Denmark in the late eighteenth century, and several leading Danish cabinet makers were trained in England. English taste was also promoted through the Royal Furniture Emporium, directed after 1781 by Carsten Anker, who had spent some years there.5
The English style is very pronounced in Lillie’s work. He is known to have been influenced by Thomas Sheraton’s ‘The Cabinet-Maker and Upholsterer’s Drawing Book and Robert Adam’s ‘Works in Architecture’. 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.6
Lillie was 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.
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’.7
- T. Clemmensen, Furniture by N.H. Jardin, C.F. Harsdorf and J.C. Lillie, Copenhagen, National Museum of Denmark, 1973, plates 121-125.
- ibid., plates 122, 121a, 105.
- S. Parissien, Adam Style, London, Phaidon, 1996, p.154.
- G. Beard, The Work of Robert Adam, London, Bloomsbury, 1978, plate 47, 70.
- T. Clemmensen, Furniture by N.H. Jardin, C.F. Harsdorf and J.C. Lillie, Copenhagen, National Museum of Denmark, 1973, p. 398.
- M. Gelfer-Jorgensen, Dansk Kunsthandværk 1730-1850, Copenhagen, Gyldendal, 1973, p. 176. T. Clemmensen, Furniture by N.H. Jardin, C.F. Harsdorf and J.C. Lillie, Copenhagen, National Museum of Denmark, 1973, p.396.
- T. Clemmensen, Furniture by N.H. Jardin, C.F. Harsdorf &J.C. Lillie, Copenhagen, National Museum of Denmark, 1973, p. 385, 386.