• Christies auction house James Christie logo

    Sale 7545

    A Town House in Mayfair

    20 November 2008, London, King Street

  • Lot 550

    A GEORGE II GILTWOOD MIRROR

    CIRCA 1745, ATTRIBUTED TO MATTHIAS LOCK

    Price Realised  

    Estimate

    A GEORGE II GILTWOOD MIRROR
    CIRCA 1745, ATTRIBUTED TO MATTHIAS LOCK
    The later central rectangular plate within a Pan's-reeded and bullrush frame, centered by a scallop shell and shell-laden swags, the sides with Syrinx and Pan busts and later border plates, with water-deity mask at the apron and spouting dolphins to either side at the base, several of the border plates re-backed, re-gilt
    85 in. (216 cm.) x 48 in. (122 cm.)


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    THE ORNAMENT
    Designed in the George II French 'picturesque' fashion, the mirror's serpentined form accords with the 'line of beauty' discussed in the artist William Hogarth's Analysis of Beauty (1753); and illustrated in Thomas Chippendale's Gentleman and Cabinet-maker's Director (1754). Chippendale's frames, like the present one, featured mirrored compartments that helped aggrandise early 18th Century window-pier glasses; while his 'Modern' ornament harmonised with that of contemporary 'natural' or 'Arcadian' parks seen through windows.

    This golden frame's Roman temple-pediment is supported by tapering herm and truss-scrolled pillars, whose busts feature the nymph Syrinx and her satyr companion Pan, educator of Bacchus and ruler of the poets' Arcadian paradise (Ovid's Metamorphoses or Loves of the Gods). Pan's sacred reeds, recalling his love for Syrinx, enwreath the shell badge of the nature-deity Venus that graces the antique-fretted tympanum of the triumphal-arched frame; while the head of Syrinx's river-god father, born by love's wings, issue from its reeded base. The shell recalls Venus' water-birth since it served as her triumphal chariot in which dolphins drew her to land, where flowers sprang at her touch. Here it is tied by garlands of 'fruits-of-the sea' to dolphins, which are embowed on reeded and pearl-jewelled plinths, while spouting water in the manner of park fountains, another emblem of Venus. Syrinx, who is shown as she is metamorphosised into reeds, sports a foliate headdress in the French 'chinois' fashion in keeping with the pagoda-swept pediment. With its garlands, dolphins etc. the pattern derives in part from the works of Jacques de Lajoue (d. 1761) engraved in Huquier's, Livre de bordures d'écrans à la chinois, 1737 (M. Snodin ed., ibid, L11-L13).

    Related chinois top-knots also appear in George Bickham the elder's etchings for his 1752 New Book of Ornaments for Glasses, Tables, Chairs, Sconces etc with Trophies in ye Chinese way, Drawn for the use of Artificers in General by the [the sculptor-carver Pierre Edm] Babel of Paris [d.1775]. Babel was himself the author of Cartouches Nouveaux, Fragments d'Ornements, receuil d'ornements et Fleurs and Differens Compartimens d'ornemens, and Fontaines en forme de cartouches. His work was also published in Augsburg by Hertel and in London by Francois Vivares, such as A New Book of China Ornaments from Babel, which was advertised in the Gentleman's Magazine, of March 1753 (G. Beard, 'A New Book of Ornaments, 1752', Furniture History, 1975, pp. 31-32). Such 'chinois' ornament was considered at the time to correspond to the 'antique' fashion, before the instigation of the rules recorded in the Roman architectural Treatise issued by Vitruvius.

    In the 1740s, Henry Ingram, 7th Viscount Irwin chose the same theme of Pan and the Golden Age of 'Peace and Plenty' for the embellishment of his great assembly room at Temple Newsam House, Yorkshire (see C. Gilbert, 'The Temple Newsam suite of early Georgian gilt furniture', Connoisseur, February 1968, pp. 84-88).

    MATTHIAS LOCK
    In 1744 Matthias Lock (d. 1765) was described as 'the famous Matthias Lock, the most excellent carver', and reputed to be 'the best Ornament draughts-man in Europe'. During the 1740s, he was also employed by James Whittle (d. 1759), 'Carver' to Frederick , Prince of Wales (d. 1752). Lock's own workshop is recorded as being occupied by 'upwards of thirty men' (Thomas Johnson, The Life of the Author, 1744, quoted in J. Simon, Furniture History, 2003, pp. 1-64). The specialist carver and pattern-book author Lock featured a satyr-hermed mirror-sconce in a pattern-book entitled Six Sconces, 1744 (pl. 4). He also published similar herms in his New Book of Ornaments for Looking Glass Frames, 1752 (Pl. 3), and included more on his contemporary 'Large Sconce' designed for John 2nd Earl Poulett's tapestried drawing room at Hinton House, Somerset (J. Hayward, 'Furniture designed and carved by Matthias Lock at Hinton House, Somerset, Connoisseur, CXLVI, December 1980, pp. 284-286; and M. Snodin Rococo, 1984, L12).

    The ornament of the present light-reflecting mirror recalls water-dripping grottoes overgrown with foliage, and makes allusion to the sun-deity Apollo's control over the Elements as expressed in the Latin tag 'Collegit ut Spargat'. Lock's colleague James Hill (d. 1754) signed his name on another of Lock's related pier-glasses recalling Apollo's powers; and this may once have accompanied a pair of similarly patterned mirrors at Ramsbury, Wiltshire (A. Bowett, Furniture History Society Newsletter , No. 153, February 2004, fig 1; and R. Edwards and P. Macquoid, The Dictionary of English Furniture, rev. ed., 1954, vol. II, p. 339, fig.72).

    Special Notice

    No VAT will be charged on the hammer price, but VAT at 15% will be added to the buyer's premium which is invoiced on a VAT inclusive basis.


    Provenance

    Acquired from Didier Aaron, London.


    Saleroom Notice

    For clarification:
    The comparable mirror on top left of page 66 is signed James Hill, and the caption should read 'A mirror by James Hill, possibly formerly at Ramsbury Manor'. Adam Bowett discusses Hill's association with Lock and the possibly Ramsbury connection in an article from the Furniture Society Newletter, 2004.