These mirrors are part of a set of at least three, of which the other two were sold by the same owner, in these Rooms, 15 April 1999, lot 20 (£98,300). From the fact that three have survived together and their condition, which varies slightly across the set, it seems certain that they have passed by descent. The most recent house in which they are recorded is Panshanger, Hertfordshire, a house demolished in the late 1950s.
This 'picturesque' George II pier-glass displays a dragon, evoking Ovid's Metamorphoses or Loves of Gods, perched on its Arcadian flower-festooned frame, which combines Earth and Water elements represented by beribboned Roman foliage, reeds and scalloped enrichments. Its composition typifies the French style popularised in the 1740s by the celebrated carver Matthias Lock (d. 1765) and the eminent engraver H. Copland (d. 1761). Its flower-bearing dragon symbolises Ceres, the Summer harvest deity, and is associated with her attendant draco-serpents that assisted the search for her daughter Proserpine, a flower and Spring deity. Ceres' dragon was featured by Lock on his 1740s Long Acre trade-card, and he combined it with the flower-strewing zephyr-wind in a sconce-frame pattern issued in his ornament-book Six Sconces, 1744, pl.3 (M. Heckscher, 'Lock and Copland, A Catalogue of the engraved ornament, Furniture History, 1979, pls. 12A and 3). In place of the zephyr-mask of Lock's pattern, this mirror displays the lion associated with Bacchus in his triumphal feasts in antiquity.
Related pier-glasses, bearing the family's winged Pegasus crest, were commissioned for Ham House, Surrey in the 1740s by Lyonel Tollemache, 4th Earl of Dysart (d. 1770) (P. Thornton and M. Tomlin, 'The Furnishings and Decoration of Ham House', Furniture History, 1980, fig. 178).
Panshanger was a Regency house, built for the 5th Earl Cowper (1778-1837) by the architect William Atkinson (d.1839) who was involved with the remodelling of The Deepdene for the connoisseur Thomas Hope (d.1831). Furniture known to be from Atkinson's house at Panshanger is rigorously Regency in style, for example, a set of twenty-four 'cippus-altar' backed sabre-legged dining-chairs (sold in these Rooms, 7 July 1994, lot 64), a Gillows extending dining-table (ibid., lot 65), and a superb X-frame library table on a Roman-altar plinth (sold in these Rooms, 16 November 1995, lot 29). Such a house seems an unlikely place for a set of mirrors of circa 1760 to have survived both together and in such comparatively untouched condition. The same is also true of a pair of early George II gilt-gesso tables that were sold in these Rooms, 16 November 1995, lot 330.
The other possibility is that these mirrors, and the gilt-gesso tables referred to above in fact came from Wrest Park, Bedfordshire, a house inherited by the Earls Cowper in the 19th Century. Wrest had been rebuilt in the 1830s for the 2nd Earl de Grey (1781-1859) in a Louis XV style. Although the house is resolutely French in style, and Lord de Grey also formed a superb collection of 18th Century French furniture, there is some evidence that its contents were eclectic. A long letter to his son, recorded in Bedfordshire Historical Society, vol. 59, no. 1980, pp. 65-85, shows that the house was not exclusively filled with French objects and he may have retained some 18th Century English objects from the house he demolished.