Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Home Beautiful: The William Kent Shell Mirror, 1735-40

Possibly by William Kent and John Boson
The Victoria & Albert Museum

With its symmetrical decoration, this mirror is an ideal example of the Baroque style that flourished in Italy in the late Seventeenth Century.  This updated, Eighteenth Century take on the Baroque mirror features an inner molding of a regular egg and leaf pattern and a double shell cresting.  This architectural piece clearly suggests the involvement of the celebrated William Kent who was known for his use of a double shell crest.

William Kent was extremely prolific in a variety of areas. For example, he designed a barge for Frederick, Prince of Wales (George II's eldest son, who died in 1751). The double shell cresting of this mirror is similar to the stern of the Prince's barge. Both this crest and the crest of the Prince’s barge also featured his symbol of the Three Feathers--the traditional badge of the Prince of Wales.

John Boson, who carried out the carving on the barge, may also have been responsible for carving this mirror.  Boson worked with Kent on many projects including carrying out Kent's designs at Chiswick House, London, for Richard Boyle, 3rd Earl of Burlington, and at Kew Palace, Surrey, for the Prince of Wales.

The oval mirror frame, dating to circa 1735, is crafted of carved and gilt pine. The frame is surmounted by a bearded head adorned by three ostrich feathers encircled by the coronet of the Prince of Wales with conventional shells behind. The whole of the frame is further adorned with acanthus foliage, rococo ornament and festoons.

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