An Aesthetic Period Gilt-Brass Circular Mirror Of Unusual Form

June 14 2013, 10:07am

This gilded brass mirror is reflective of the designs of the Aesthetic Movement, which traveled from Britain to America in the last third of the 19th century, and supported aesthetic values above sociopolitical themes in literature, music an the arts. Carlton Hobbs LLC Furniture and decorative objects of the period shared the common themes of ebonizing and gilding, Eastern influence (particularly Japan), and the prominent use of nature in the forms of flowers, leaves and peacock feathers. The sunflowers repeated on the present mirror were a popular motif used by aesthetic movement designers an architects such as Dominick & Haff (1872-1928) who used the flower repeatedly in their sterling tablewares, and Thomas Jeckyll (1827-1881), whose famous sunflower andirons adorn the fireplace of Whistler’s Peacock Room in the Freer Gallery of Art, Washington DC. The form of the leaves which make up the pierced field between mirrors on the present piece also has an affinity to the work of Gustave and Christian Herter (1865-1905) (who also employed sunflower decoration), as can be seen in figure 1a and 1b.   Figure 1a Figure 1b The mirror also shares commonalities in the guilloche, foliate, and circular patterns found in the work of contemporary architects such as Louis Sullivan, for example, the cornice of the Wainwright Building in St. Louis, circa 1890, and the Chicago Stock Exchange, circa 1894 (figure 2). Figure 2a Figure 2b The mirror is notable for its exceptionally fine casting. Foundries such as that of Edward F. Caldwell were producing work that surpassed European manufacture, in part due to American innovations and improvements in machinery and technique. Research into likely designers and foundries of the mirror is ongoing, and we would love to hear your theories or suggestions as to its potential maker!