These mirrors are part of a set of at least three, with the third remaining with the vendor's family. 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.
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.
Each flower-festooned frame is conceived in the French picturesque manner with serpentined, fretted and acanthus-wrapped ribbon-scrolls. At the base a festive bacchic lion-mask is displayed in a palm-wrapped and antique stippled cartouche. The water-cabochoned pediment frames a draco or serpent-dragon, sacred to Minerva, emerging from a trellised cartouche. A flower-bearing draco featured on Matthias Lock's mirror-patterns in this style illustrated in Six Sconces, 1744, which may have dervived from that invented by the French artist Nicolas Pineau and illustrated in Batty Langley's 'Marble Table' patterns in The City and Country Builder's and Workman's Treasury of Designs, 1740, pls. CXLV and CXLVI. The latter also featured a festive lion-masked cartouche (pl. CXLII). The Roman-patterned lion-mask relates in particular to the William Kent pattern illustrated in J. Vardy, Some Designs of Mr Inigo Jones and Mr William Kent, 1744, pl, 41.
These mirrors also relate to a pier-glass which is likely to have formed part of the furnishings introduced to Ham House, Surrey, 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).