9755 AN EXTRAORDINARY BLACK LACQUER AND POLYCHROME OVAL MIRROR French. Second Quarter Of The 19th Century. Measurements: Height: 56 1/3″ (143 cm) Width: 41 1/2″ (105.4 cm)
Of black lacquer and polychrome decoration. The elaborately fretted oval frame surrounding an original bevelled mirror plate with lacquered vignettes depicting deities and infants examining carp. The whole surmounted by a fantastical grisaille mask.
The present mirror is a most unusual tour de force of the lacquerist’s art. Owing to a small signed and dated set of related black ground pieces by Chifflot of Nancy (figure 1), it is possible to state with confidence that the mirror is a product of a top flight French lacquer atelier.
The chinoiserie vignettes found on the mirror are of great charm and depict elegant Chinese characters following pursuits such as fishing and playing a table game. The personages’ physiognomies are remarkable because of their painterly quality; Chinoiserie character depictions in Europe from the 17th century onward tend toward the generic, however, the present example contains faces of remarkable, lively detail and expressiveness.
The mirror is surmounted by a fantastic grotesque whose aquatic appearance chimes with the fishing vignette below. The mask is further distinguished by its Arcimboldo-like composition; upon close scrutiny its eyes are formed of flower heads, while its cheeks and forehead are leafy and its chin is formed of bud like motifs.
The Chifflot group to which the mirror is both technically and aesthetically related is dated variously from 1846 to 1859, a brief Golden Age in France, when exoticism and eclecticism were fluently intermixed under the patronage of luxury goods purveyors such as Maison Giroux and L’escalier du Crystal. Perhaps the apotheosis of the style is to be found in the celebrated Elephant Aubusson tapestry of circa 1845, now in the Louvre, having been sold by Carlton Hobbs.
The mirror is in near perfect untouched condition and retains the original bevelled mirror plate.