Thursday, May 11, 2017

The Mystery of the Windmill Mirror


As purchased

I purchased this large mirror at auction. Federal style, but I suspect, based on the construction and some other clues, it is from the 1890-1920 period. I have seen other Federal style mirrors made during this period, and the workmanship is usually of high quality, and there is an adherence to the original that can make them difficult to attribute to a specific period. I have seen some, by the Boston firm "Foster Brothers" that are particularly good reproductions. Another, with a Wallace Nutting label, had some of the best reverse glass painting I've seen. I think these "second period" mirrors intrigue me, since at the time, it would not have been difficult to obtain a period piece. Perhaps the fad of "Colonial" during that period made them in demand, and, like today, many people like "antiques" (as long as they are not old).

Back construction indicates late 19th or early 20th century

Nicely done panel


I appreciated the workmanship on this one, in particular the nice eglomise panel with a diapered pattern on the sides, and a central scene of a windmill. Since the price was reasonable (due to damages), I wasn't concerned with the age, and felt that it may have been a replacement. One day, as is my habit, I was looking on-line at houses for sale, and one in the next town had photo showing my mirror in the living room. Since the house was on the next street over from a well known painter of early American decoration, I wondered if she was connected, and/or executed the glass panel.

Damage detail

The damages, while distracting, were not as difficult to fix as they might appear. One leaf ornament was missing, but this was a common composition ornament, and I already had a mold from another mirror project. A quick casting, and it was ready to gesso and gild to match the others.

The colonnettes and their bases had gesso cracking and losses. Since this was systemic failure of the gesso bond, I took off the gesso and re-applied new gesso. They were then water gilded. As usual, I want my antique mirrors and frames to show wear (which will be more pronounced on the delicate water gilt areas than on the oil gilded sections).

When I get a space to leave this out, I might disassemble the backing and see if there is more information or clues. But for now, with repairs done, it will get packed away out of harm's way.


Finished!









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