A George I Gesso & Giltwood Looking Glass






Through the years, we have had quite a few wonderful mirrors -

some of rich early walnut with original finish, gilt and plate -

one surmounted by an intricately carved Chinaman seated in a pagoda -

one recently with a magnificent phoenix extending 7 inches out over the plate. 

But somehow, this simple elegant c1720 gilt and gesso mirror has become one of my favorite things -

its gentle subtlety and warmth continues to draw me right into it. 

The mirror (or "looking glass", as the English prefer to say) is exquisite in its entirety. 

The frame is beautifully carved, the raised surfaces burnished to a reflective shine,

the lower "ground" with a softer glow, and "pounced" or "coined" decoration -

tiny hand applied concentric circles covering the surface,

somewhat reminiscent of the "matted grounds" on 17th and early 18th century silver. 

The gilt itself is quite soft with a hint of red bole and flecks of gesso visible from beneath. 

Everything about it asked to be viewed - and touched.




The all important shallowly beveled mirror plate is the original "Vauxhall glass"

( a term referring to early soft gray English plate). 

1720 is still quite early in British plate-making, the glass being quite thin and subject to breakage -

both through extended life and in the actual making. 

The process of mirror plate making has been described as "intensely laborious", and "a cold wet business". 

After the glass was either blown, cut into a cylinder and opened out - or was cast and poured into a table-form mold,

the plates were uneven and not at all transparent. 

To reach transparency, they had to be ground down with abrasives until flat, and finally polished with a fine "Tripoly". 

 Beveled edges were also a favorite with British as they reflected additional light. 

These had to be precisely cut - or in some cases produced with a hot poker - the process itself often producing breakage.

The bevel is present in the mirror, but extremely shallow.  The "re-entrant corner" can be seen at the upper right.




The silvering (of "Filing") for reflection was another exacting hand process : 

"For this you must have a firm well smooth'd Table, much greater than the Glass. 

Whereon spread one or more sheets of very fine Tin, let them be as thin as Paper,

and so prepared, as not to have any Rumple, Furrow, or Spot, else the Glass will be spoil'd;

Over these Sheets spread good Mercury, quite covering them with it;

and when the Mercury has soaked in well, place the Glass thereon, and it will stick to them;

 then turn it, and spread Sheets of Paper on the Filing; press is gently,

smoothing and stroaking it with your Hands, to take off the Superfluous Mercury,

then dry it in the Sun, or by a soft Fire, and it will become perfect". 

Early plates add tremendously to the value of early mirrors - sometimes approximating one-half the value. 

So expensive was the glass to produce that old plates were often re-used in newer frames, rather than ordering a new plate.




Note the "coined" (pounced) decoration contrasting with the highly burnished carving in the images above and below.



Looking into this almost 300 year old soft gray and slightly fogged glass produces a reflection

 seemingly shrouded in mystery - both by time and surface. 

Imagination and a bit of romance are inevitably pricked.

It seems as if someone is there looking back at you - their personal history of life and loves recorded 

somewhere deep within the glass, reflecting back alongside your own image - and candlelight. 

I invite you to view additional details on the listing page, linked here, and by the images above.

However, nothing can take the place of standing in front of it - and looking back in time.



Please email, or call, should you have any questions.


Millicent Ford Creech



901-761-1163 (gallery) / 901-827-4668 (cell)



Hours : Wed.-Sat. 11-6, or by appointment

Complimentary Gift Wrapping


mfcreech@bellsouth.net  or  mfordcreech@gmail.com



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