11545 A FINELY CARVED LATE BAROQUE GILTWOOD MIRROR WITH CHERUBIC MASKS WEARING FEATHERED HEADDRESS Probably South American. Eighteenth Century. Measurements: Height: 39″ (99 cm); Width: 23″ (58.4 cm).
Of giltwood. The rectangular frame surmounted by a shaped crest centered by a winged female putto mask with feathered headdress flanked by outswept scrolled shoulders decorated by floral and foliate garlands that continue down the sides of the mirror. The conforming apron centered by a further putto mask. Mirror plate replaced. Possibly once containing a painting.
Old diplomatic US collection formed of items acquired in Mexico and South America
The present mirror is a charming, though somewhat naïve rendition of a European baroque form reproduced most probably in colonial South America during the eighteenth century. Here, classical motifs such as shells and acanthus for the crest and apron are replaced by indigenous flora.
The cherubic female mask of the present mirror’s crest evokes the allegory of the Americas in the traditional representation of the Four Continents. Specifically, the putto wears a feathered headdress and its neck is adorned by a string of pearls. Allegories of the Continents were extremely popular in the baroque era. Prior to the conquest of the Americas, the classical European interpretation of the globe was divided into just three parts: Europe, Africa and Asia. With the discovery of the New World, however, iconography of “the west” developed to connote a new and exotic wilderness and its people, specifically novel flora and fauna, the bow and arrow, and the aforementioned headdress along with feathered belts.
The mirror formed part of the collection of a US diplomat who acquired a great number of antiques in Mexico and South America. Within the contents of his primary US residence was listed “a mirror with gilded Mexican baroque frame” in the master bedroom, which may have referred to the present piece and would support its colonial New Spanish origin.