Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The Home Beautiful: The Halnaby Hall Giltwood Mirror, 1750-1760

Chinoiserie Mirror of Giltwood
England, 1750-60
After Thomas Johnson
Removed from Halnaby Hall in 1952
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Could this mirror be any more magnificent? This giltwood mirror is carved with a design and figures in the Chinoiserie (a general term for Chinese-style decorative and ornamental motifs) style.  The mirror frame is built into a complex pinnacle with each of the interstices (the carved crevices) filled with mirror glass, creating an astonishing shimmering effect when struck by candlelight.  

Though we do not know who made this mirror, the curators at the V&A have deduced—based on historic designs and drawings—that it may have been based on engravings published as a book (oddly, without a title) by Thomas Johnson (1714-1778)  in 1758.  Johnson was a highly-skilled carver and a gilder who is known to have supplied mirrors--via the London upholsterer George Cole of Golden Square, Soho--to Paul Methuen at Corsham Court, Wiltshire, and the Duke of Atholl at Blair Castle in the Scottish Highlands.

Among the characteristic Chinoiserie motifs included on this mirror frame are fanciful buildings, robed figures and birds with long necks—creating an illusion of China as a fairy-tale land.

This mirror once hung between the windows in the Drawing Room at Halnaby Hall (formerly the seat of the Milbanke family) in North Yorkshire. 
  Sadly, this Rococo mansion was demolished in 1952 at which time, the V&A purchased this mirror.

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