9324 A RARE GEORGE II WALNUT MIRROR IN THE PALLADIAN TASTE English. Circa 1735. Measurements: Height: 63 1/4″ (167cm) Width: 37″ (94cm)
Of carved walnut and burr walnut veneer. The whole surmounted by a broken molded pediment centered by a cartouche set within foliate decoration, the pediment above the frieze carved to the center with a scallop shell flanked to each side by scrolling foliate carving and three pendants. The later rectangular soft beveled mirror plate enclosed by a burr walnut frame with molded edge and eared corners to the top, the sides carved to the top with with foliate motifs and terminating below with teo scrolls, each centered with a carved flowerhead.
Bears an early 20th century paper label: ‘Partridge’ including stock number and price of £125.
Old Massachusetts collection
This unusually executed mirror is a rare example of a carved and veneered walnut mirror devoid of gilt embellishments. A comparable example of this type is a similarly conceived architectural mirror (figure 1) formerly in the celebrated Geoffrey Blackwell collection of English furniture, formed under the guidance of the pioneering furniture scholar R.W. Symonds.1 A further walnut mirror dating from around 1740 in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum has a similar broken pediment; it is of a an even more severe architectural form and also eschews extraneous decoration.2
The architectural nature of the present mirror and the Blackwell piece places both within the tradition of William Kent, the architect at the forefront of the development of Palladian classically inspired design in England from around 1720. Kent’s influence on architecture as well as the decorative arts reached its apogee in the 1730s and both mirrors display a typically Palladian architectural vocabulary, with pediments, eared upper corners to the frame, bold scrolling lobes below and triple pendant motifs.
The present mirror can be compared to a series of Kentian designs for frames of architectural form published by William Jones in ‘The Gentleman or Builder’s Companion’ of 1739. It combines a number of specific features from that publication, specifically the lobed lower corners from plate 47, the broken pediment filled with a cartouche on plate 43 and the triple pendant motif on plate 46.3
It was almost universal for walnut mirrors of this date to have any carved decoration rendered in giltwood. The lack of such decoration on this piece serves to emphasize the inclination for a more pure and austere interpretation of the Palladian on the part of the designer of the present mirror, redolent of Kent’s monotone stone color furniture.
A similar walnut mirror with distinctive carved sunflower motifs was sold at Masterpiece Fair in London circa 2012 by Edward Hurst Antiques.
- Christies, Review of the Season, 1992, London, 1992,p162, Sold, 9 July 1992.
- Herbert F. Schiffer, The Mirror Book: English, American and European, Exton PA, 1983, p84, figure 181.
- Elizabeth White, Pictorial Dictionary of British 18th Century Furniture Design: The Printed Sources, Woodbridge 1990, pp323-4.