Furniture Styles

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Venetian Style Glass Mirrors

Prior to 1618 the craftsmen of Venice had had a monopoly on making glass plates for mirrors and only the most wealthy among the English could afford to have Venetian glass mirrors imported.

In 1618 a patent was taken out and the making of Venetian style mirrors in England began - with the help of "many expert strangers from foreign parts beyond the seas".

Over the years the making of Venetian mirrors went on in spurts and increased greatly after the Restoration of the monarchy with the founding of the Glass House of Vauxhall in London in 1664 which was established by the wonderfully named Worshipful Company of Glass Sellers and Looking Glass Makers.

1675 with original glass from Vauxhall Glass House. Frame is oyster veneered with geometric patterns. The top ornamental carved piece has been lost.

By 1676 Evelyn the diarist had proclaimed that English looking glasses and Venetian styles mirrors were "larger and better than any that come from Venice", almost certainly a nationalist exaggeration.

Glass mirrors made in the late 17th century reflected generally prevailing tastes in interior decoration and furnishings, these being in the baroque style prevalent in Europe.

The wood frames of these mirrors were mostly of oblong or square shape and featured very ornate and stylised carving work in the form of fruit, flowers, cupids, etc. in the manner of the master carver of the time Grinling Gibbons.

Finishing of the mirror frames was done in a variety of ways, sometimes softwoods were silvered or gilt, often frames of stump work, tortoiseshell, parquetry, work in laburnum or olive, laquer, and Dutch style marquetry.

Pier Glass Mirror
Pier Glass Mirror, 1680. Veneered with Japanese lacquer including mother-of-pearl, and painted black and gold.

At times the trend towards elaborate decoration went to extreme, bizarre lengths. Carving work included scenes of "angling for dolphins in a wood" or "pursuing the stag and chasing the bear in the middle of the ocean".....

Such Venetian style mirrors were often made as an ensemble with restoration era small tables and candlestands.

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