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The pagoda cresting hung with a bell, on a rockwork base flanked by spire finials, above an arched plate divided by a floral band within a mirrored-border with rocaille, foliate and C-scroll frame hung with fruiting and foliate pendants, the base centred by a mirrored trefoil cartouche, minor losses, the gilding apparently largely original
91½ in. (232.5 cm.) high; 43 in. (109 cm.) wide
Harry Rixson, Dunstable, Bedfordshire, where acquired 13 May 1950, as 'Very Fine Chippendale Mirror.' (£110).
A.E. Richardson, diary entry, 15 May 1950.
'Two RA's at home: Sir Albert Richardson at Ampthill, James Fitton at Dulwich', House and Garden, XIII, 1958, p. 78, illustrated in the drawing room.

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Lot Essay

This chinoiserie pier mirror displays all the characteristics of the Scottish carver William Mathie (fl.1733-60). Mathie was the son of a merchant in Cockenzie on the Firth of Forth, a small but important port in the Scottish timber trade, a business in which his father may well have been involved. This likely exposure to the trade, and to its clientele, probably influenced his choice of career. William Mathie was apprenticed to the Edinburgh wright Alexander Peter between 1733 and 1739, however he was not to become a burgess and guild-brother until 1760, and during the intervening years he continued to work as a journeyman for Peter. Although Mathie's elevation to the status of burgess was late, it does not seem to have impeded his career, as in the interim as he was able to take commissions and bill for them in his own name whilst still in the employ of Peter. This independence was extremely unusual and contravened the accepted practices of the guild-brethren. Between 1757-58 Mathie is recorded to have completed a chimneypiece under John and James Adam for the Duke of Argyll at Inveraray Castle, Argyll. However, it was to be the following year that he would begin his largest known commission, for William Crichton-Dalrymple, 5th Earl of Dumfries (d. 1768), at Dumfries House, Ayrshire, whilst still working under Peter's mastership and where he is recorded as issuing two bills totaling £325.16s. in 1759. Mathie's main work at Dumfries House was to provide a series of mirrors to complement those already supplied by Thomas Chippendale. These were directly influenced in their design by the latter's patterns published in his Gentleman and Cabinet-Maker's Director, 1754 and followed by subsequent editions in 1755 and 1762. Mathie also supplied an important group of picture frames. The commission showed the wide scope of his abilities as a carver, and the designs he executed brilliantly drew together the fashionable foliate, rocaille and chinoiserie motifs of the Rococo, with the Dumfries thistle and the Crichton Wyvern, and in two mirrors incorporated the badge of the Order of the Thistle (Dumfries House, A Chippendale Commission, Christie's sale catalogue, vol. I, London, 12-13 July 2007, pp. 42-43).
Amongst the related mirrors at Dumfries, two designs stand out as particularly comparable. The design of the pair of mirrors supplied by Mathie for the Drawing Room owes much not only to Chippendale, but also to designs by Matthias Lock (d.1765), in A New Book of Ornament for Looking Glass frames, Chimney Pieces etc. in The Chinese Taste, published in partnership with Henry Copland (d. 1753) circa 1752. These mirrors are related to the Richardson mirror not only in the detail and decoration but also in the overall form, notably the pagoda-capped waisted outline, the shaping of the plates and the treatment of the foliage (Christie's Dumfries catalogue, lot 55). Secondly, the pier glass supplied for the other 16 ft. square room in the attic storey (lot 250) shows close comparison in the decoration, including the carving of the roof of the pagoda, that of the flatter sections of rocaille and the similarity of the cartouche to the frieze. Furthermore, that some of the Dumfries pier glasses and the Richardson pier glass were constructed re-using earlier plates is an idiosyncratic and small, but not insignificant link, which strengthens the attribution.

Analysis of the gilding has shown that the present water-gilding over a pinkish brown clay is the original scheme of decoration.

We are grateful to Sebastian Pryke for confirming the attribution to William Mathie on the basis of a photograph.

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