11445

A RARE GILTWOOD OVERMANTEL MIRROR SET WITH PANELS OF MUGHAL INSPIRED CARVED GEOMETRIC TRACERY

India. Circa 1870.

Measurements

Width: 64" (162 cm);
Height: 60 1/2" (153.5 cm);
Depth: 3" (7.5 cm).

Research
Of carved and gilt teakwood. The central oval mirror glass set into a rectangular panel of carved foliate decoration, flanked on each side by two smaller square mirrors with carved foliate panels below and pierced geometric panels above, and all flanked by four palm-like columns. The upper arched section with conforming shaped foliate carving to the outer edge of frame center shaped center carved panel, surrounded by four pierced geometric panels of various starburst designs. Each panel separated by carved borders of repeating rosette pattern. The outer edge of the entire frame with conforming carved rosette decoration to the top and palm motif to the lower section.

Marks:
Very old chalk inscription on back: “Leighton

This very interesting 19th century mirror is carved from solid teak, the most important timber of India, “used for the more valuable and expensive articles of house-fitting and furnishing”1 and is a remarkable exercise in the use of ornament from the Indian architectural canon. Its overall composition recalls the successive arched doorways of India’s iconic 17th century structures such as for example, the Khas Mahal in Delhi (figure 1). The mirror frame’s surface incorporates numerous twelve point star patterns within its tracery carved panels, certainly based on Mughal geometric ornamental design, where stars were a keynote. The Indian scholar George Michell summed up Mughal geometry in design, writing: “Geometry was never a mere adornment in Mughal style, rather it was a means of evoking a world that lay beyond human experience.”2

The various decorative elements that make up the present mirror were likely sourced from Indian stone and woodwork. The six pierced panels of the present mirror are akin to pindra-kari an Islamic geometric latticework of intricately joined turned wood. This type of woodwork was largely employed on screens and mashrabiya, projecting window balconies found in the Middle East and India.

The central and lower panels of the mirror contain a network of relief carved foliate decoration which, together with the four palm-like columns in particular, recalls the type of ornament found on a stone screen at Muttra, published in the Journal of Indian Art, Volume 1, page 257 (figure 2).

It is a further particular aspect of the very high level of craftsmanship and design quality of this piece that even the sides are fully carved and gilded.

Full research report available on request.

Full research report available on request.