These 'picturesque' Roman-medallion pier-glasses with airy golden frames executed in French-fashioned 'carton pierre' are likely to have been designed en suite with a pair of abundantly flowered pier-tables (sold Christie’s, London, 8 June 2006, lot 30). Their 'Pan' reed-gadrooned frames are wreathed by water-dripping and reed-scrolled pilasters, whose rustic arched pediments are crowned with flower-baskets evoking Arcadian festivities. Such furniture, appropriate for the pier of a garden salon, is likely to have formed part of the aggrandisement of Stoke Place, Buckinghamshire carried out by Field Marshal Sir George Howard following his purchase of the mansion in 1764 with the assistance of the fashionable architect Stiff Leadbetter (d. 1766). Leadbetter, who had trained as a carpenter builder and held the appointment of Surveyor of St. Paul's Cathedral, was already at the time in the employment of Thomas Penn at neighbouring Stoke Park.
A related 'Oval Glass Frame' pattern, with reed-gadrooned border, and another crowned by a basket, were published in W. Ince and J. Mayhew's, Universal System of Household Furniture, 1762 (pls. 78 and 79). Their patterns also relate to those previously issued by Thomas Johnson (1723-99), the Rococo carver and designer who in 1758 published his Designs for Picture-frames, Candelabra, Chimney pieces, etc., with a frontispiece dedicated to Lord Blakeney, Grand President of the Antigallican Association, who opposed ‘the insidious arts from the French Nation’, and included a winged cherub setting fire to a scroll entitled ‘French Paper Machee’ (P. Kirkham, ‘The London Furniture Trade 1700-1870’, Furniture History, 1988, Chapter IX, p. 9; E.3716-1903). Carton pierre was initially seen as a great threat to the professional carver and was associated with French émigré craftsmen like the Berwick Street carver, gilder and papier-mâché maker, William Duffour (fl. c. 1749–84), son of Joseph Duffour, who in 1749 was famous for his ‘paper ornaments like stucco’, and claimed to be the original maker of papier-mâché; he may have executed a pier-glass to an Adam design, acquired in 1926 by the Victoria & Albert Museum (ibid.; W.25-1926). However, by the mid-18th century, the use of carton pierre was, as the architect Isaac Ware (1704-66) grudgingly acknowledged, ‘all the rage of fashion’, and went hand-in-hand with carving (‘Mirrors of the Late 18th Century’, Country Life, 9 October 1926, p. 558). John Linnell, renowned for his high quality carving (see lot 51), had a few carton pierre items such as gilt ornaments for a bed and a set of bed cornices in stock in 1763 (Kirkham, op. cit., p. 118). Similarly, Thomas Chippendale (1718-79) bought carton pierre room borders, and in 1763 the Royal cabinet-maker William Vile (1700-67) supplied ‘A neat oval glass in a ‘Papier Machie’ frame, painted white’ (ibid.; Country Life, op. cit.).