Ivory carving from walrus and mammoth tusks has long been a tradition within popular Russian folk art since the Middle Ages, originating in the northern regions but enjoying greater popularity in the second half of the 18th century. Several production centers of ivory carving were known at the time. These included Kholmogory, Archangelsk, Moscow and St. Petersburg. In the second half of the 18th century the best craftsmen migrated to St. Petersburg to practice their skills, producing mostly small items such as caskets, work boxes, toilet boxes and combs. The wealthier clientele also commissioned miniature cabinets, toilet tables and bureau cabinets. The Czars long patronized this specifically Russian craft and numerous pieces are still to be found in Russian museums and Imperial palaces.
Carved ivory objects from the Archangelsk province of this sophisticated design and large size are extremely unusual. The present lot is a rare, large-scale example. Also unusual are the fine pierced rocaille panels -- which can be seen on other of the more elaborate small caskets from the region, often with leaping or hunted animals. A similar mirror is illustrated as the frontispiece in E.N. Ukhanova, Ivory Carving in Russia XVIII-XIX Centuries, Leningrad, 1981. Another dressing mirror was offered at Christie's, New York, 29 September, 1999, lot 61 and a dressing table mirror of slightly later date was sold at Christie's London, 11 December 2003, lot 2.