Once more, we have the privilege of offering a very early British mirror.

However this one, rather than in the 18th century giltwood manner,

dates to c1690 :




William & Mary Figured Walnut Crested Cushion Wall Mirror, Original Crest and Mirror Plate, c1690

"The well figured walnut wall mirror retaining the

original rectangular shallow-beveled Vauxhall* glass plate

within in a cushion-moulded surround with sectionally-veneered cross-grain moulding

surmounted by the original tenoned arched and pierced crest,

the cut-out floral and foliate designs creating contrasting light and dark areas;

43" High

This mirror is also of quite large size - a rare combination to find in today's market.

"The Glass" :

1690 is really quite early in British "looking glass" plate-making.

The making of glass, as well as polished metal mirrors, dates back thousands of years.

However, the same history is not true for glass mirror plates.

Venice glass-making factories have existed since the 8th century - but more for tableware,

their small mirrors being produced from c1500 forward.


In England, little is known about glass and glass-making until 1600.

"Mirrors" from known 16th century inventories (as Henry VIII) proved to be of polished metal.

Oddly, even the convex mirror in Jan Van Eyck's well known 1434

"Portrait of Giovanni Arnolfini and His Wife"

is now speculated as possibly of polished "steale" rather than glass ("christal") -

in part due to its "large size" - and estimated extraordinary expense

"Portrait of Giovanni Arnolfini and His Wife", Jan Van Eyck's, 1434 with central round convex mirror

England's first coal-fired factories were founded in 1610 -

intended primarily for window glass.

But the newly coveted "looking glasses" were quick to follow,

being perfected and supplied by 1620.

The 1666 Great Fire of London prompted further expansion of the glass industry,

especially for replacement of window glasses.

And in 1677, the Duke of Buckingham brought experienced Venetian workmen

to Lambeth, London, just north of Vauxhall Gardens -

* the name "Vauxhall glass" now being used to describe the soft gray shallow-beveled

British glass of the late 17th and early 18th centuries.

According to diarist John Evelyn, 1620-1706,

the Vauxhall area's late 17th century glass was really quite exceptional :

"they make huge vases of metal (glass), as clear, thick and ponderous as crystal,

also looking-glasses far finer and larger than any that came from Venice".

The Vauxhall plate on this William & Mary mirror came only shortly thereafter :

William & Mary Figured Walnut Crested Cushion Wall Mirror, Original Crest and Mirror Plate, c1690

& "The Reflection" :

For "looking-glass" reflectance, these glass plates were covered with mercury backing -

a long laborious process.**

(Please see "footnotes" for a 1699 contemporary description)

William & Mary Figured Walnut Crested Cushion Wall Mirror, Original Crest and Mirror Plate, c1690

"The Frame" :

17th century mirror plates were housed in every conceivable surround -

including ivory, carved giltwood, needlework, metalwork, velvet - and wood.

Rectangular "cushion" (convex) frames of walnut and olivewood veneer and marquetry were

among the most popular. The majority were designed with a slotted back to receive a crest -

 the rounded crest, as above, remaining popular through the early 18th century.

Due to their fragility, please note that

very few of these mirrors retain their original crests.

The mercury-backed glass plate was secured and covered with a thin sheet of deal,

 that held in place by further deal slips or blocks.

Below is how one would appear from the backside -

the backside being an important in mirror selection

William & Mary Figured Walnut Crested Cushion Wall Mirror, Original Crest and Mirror Plate, c1690 - verso


Footnotes :


The Arnolfini Portrait (or The Arnolfini Wedding, The Arnolfini Marriage,

the Portrait of Giovanni Arnolfini and his Wife),

 Jan Van Eyck, oak on three panels, 32.4 in x 23.6 in; National Gallery, London. Wikicommons


** The Art of Glass, (c1699), Jean Haudicquer de Blancourt (1650-1704) on applying mercury :

"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".

Girl at a Mirror, 1632, Paulus Moreelse, Rijksmuseum Amsterdam

Girl at a Mirror, 1632, Paulus Moreelse, Rijksmuseum Amsterdam




Click the above images for the detail pages.

Should you wish additional information,

do not hesitate to call, or email :


901.761.1163 (gallery) or 901.827.4668 (cell)





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


mfcreech@bellsouth.net or mfordcreech@gmail.com



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William & Mary Figured Walnut 'Crested' Cushion Mirror, Original Crest & Mirror Plate, c1690