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Queen Anne Mirrors

For all the gifts of decoration that came to the craftsmen of the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, the time of Queen Ann furniture - the exciting possibilities of enrichment, marquetry, gesso and a multitude of suggestions for the carving and gilding of furniture - did not fuse into a wild and rococo outburst of extravagance. Considerable attention was given to the making of domestic furniture; and there were many convenient additions to the furnishing of the pleasant houses of red brick that beautified both town and country with their proportions and promise of comfort. The increasingly decorative appearance of those wonderfully clad ladies and gentlemen who postured amid the dignified furniture of the Queen Anne interior made mirrors vastly more important.

Gilt Mirror Frame
Gilt Mirror Frame, early 18th century.

Certainly the mirrors of the Queen Anne era deserve especial mention, for their beauty of proprotion and design. Some years before 1700, mirrors with frames of walnut, having shaped hoods above, and frames inlaid with marquetry, appeared in houses; but by the close of the William & Mary period mirror frames were gilded, and sometimes lacquered, gesso frames also giving designers great opportunities for fine ornamental work. Frames of an architectural character with broken pediments at their head and enriched in a variety of ways brought to the mirror the character of an illuminated panel; it was a decorative feature in a room rather than an independent piece of furniture.

Gradually the furnishing of town houses and the larger country houses develops a dependence upon background that gives to individual pieces of furniture a definite place in a scheme of decoration. It is slow in growth, this idea of rigid unity between the furniture and its background, but it had been foreshadowed in the designs of Marot; and in the work of such great architects as Sir John Vanbrugh, the builder of Blenheim and Castle Howard, the domination of the decorative background is apparent.

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