Tula. Late Eighteenth Or Early Nineteenth Century.


Height: 11 3/4 " (29.8 cm); Width: 10 3/4" (27.3 cm); Depth: 3 3/8" (8.5 cm).

Of steel. The old but replaced mirror-glass, enclosed by a frame of cut and polished steel stylized rosettes, supported by pierced orb and faceted ball uprights surmounted by ‘lukovichnaya glava’ finials, on conforming trestle base. The reverse with replaced mahogany conforming arched panel.

New York Collection

This extraordinary dressing mirror makes extensive use of the distinctive faceted steel beads, often referred to as “diamonds,” which are the trademark of the decorative steel work produced by the celebrated Tula workshops in Russia during the eighteenth century. “Variously shaped…steel diamonds were distributed by the hundred on the surface of [an] object, where they created the allusion of glittering gems,”1 the present mirror possessing just such a jewel-like quality.

The mirror takes advantage of all manner of steel bead shapes—spherical, oval, oblong, pierced and cylindrical—that contributed to the unique decorative aesthetic created by the Tula craftsmen. It is differentiated from other known Tula items as the posts and stretcher employ hollow spheres, each formed of a system of oval faceted nuggets— a highly technical undertaking that would have challenged the skills of its maker to the limit.

The distinctive rosettes framing the mirror glass are a particular recurring motif of the Tula workshops. They appear on a number of pieces supplied to Catherine the Great and other members of the Imperial family, for example, a table and footstool circa 1801 given to Alexander I by the Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna on the occasion of his coronation (figure 1), as well as a toilet mirror circa 1801 in the Hermitage (figure 2). Like the present piece, the Hermitage mirror also employs ‘Lukovichnaya Glava,’ onion-dome finials, a characteristic feature in the architecture of Russian churches, the most famous of which is St. Basil’s Cathedral on Red Square in Moscow.

The craftsmen of Tula became renowned for their production of objects in steel following Peter the Great’s relocation of the Imperial State Armory to the town in 1712. The workshops of Tula began to manufacture domestic objects in steel soon after moving there. Tula craftsmen gained an international reputation for adapting the experience and techniques acquired in the creation of fine quality arms, and Tula is the only center known to have produced furniture made entirely of steel during the eighteenth century.2

Full research report available on request.

Full research report available on request.