This beautiful 'Flower piece' pier-mirror evokes the flower-wreathed portraits and luxurious Louis Quatorze 'Roman' fashion adopted in the 1690s by the English court during the reign of William III and Mary II. In particular the fashion was introduced in the Queen's Apartments at the Palaces of Whitehall, Kensington and Hampton Court under the direction of the French 'architect' Daniel Marot (d. 1752), who illustrated related Cupid-attended vases in his Nouveaux Livre de Tableaux de Portes, a chiminee utiles aux Peintres en fleurs, (c. 1700). Such paintings were a speciality of the Franco-Flemish artist Jean-Baptiste Monnoyer (d. 1699), who had previously been employed by Charles Le Brun at Versailles 'to do the flower-part wherein he showed his excellence', and indeed a closely related basket of flowers featured in an engraving by Monnoyer offered at Bloomsbury Book Auctions, May 2002, lot 198. One such 'Large looking glass with flowers etc. in it' was executed by Monnoyer for the 'Looking Glass Closet' adjoining Queen Mary's gallery at Kensington; while Jakob Bogdani (James Bogedain) received £60 in 1694 for his work in Queen Mary's 'Looking Glass Closet' at Hampton Court's Thames/Water Gallery. During this period (1694-96) the cabinet-maker Gerrit Jensen (Gerard Johnson) also charged for the provision of 'glasses' for the room. A few years later he charged again for 'Taking down all the glasses in the late Water Gallery in several rooms' (Mich. 1700/1). Daniel Defoe recorded how the Queen embellished this 'Water Gallery' and 'order'd all the little neat curious [fine wrought] things to be done, which suited her own conveniences, and made it the pleasantest little thing within doors that could possibly be made... (D.Defoe, A Tour through England and Wales, letter III, 1725). Celia Fiennes also noted that 'at the four corners were little rooms like closets or drawing rooms. One pannell'd all with Jappan another with Looking Glass and two with fine [embroidery] work under pannells of Glass...' (The Journeys of Celia Fiennes, ed. Morris, 1947.)
Jean-Baptiste Monnoyer, celebrated as 'Baptise the flower-painter' was brought to England in 1678 by Ralph Montagu, 1st Duke of Montagu, and amongst his masterpieces are the flower pieces supplied for over-doors and overmantels of Montagu House, Bloomsbury. A related mirror, sold by Christopher Gibbs, Esq. from The Manor House, Clifton Hampden, Christie's house sale, 25-26 September 2000, lot 303, originally formed part of the Montagu/Buccleuch collection (J. Cornforth, 'Looking-Glass Mysteries', Country Life, 21 October 1993, pp. 72-75). There is a possibility that this latter was originally executed for Moor Park, Hertfordshire, as a flowered mirror by Jakob Bogdany of 1701 is also recorded in the house that the court architect Hugh May (d. 1684) had built for James, Duke of Monmouth and his wife Anne Scott, suo jure, Duchess of Buccleuch. It was moved, together with some of Grinling Gibbons' carvings to Dalkeith Palace, near Edinburgh in 1700 (J. Cornforth, 'Dalkeith Palace, Lothian', Country Life, 26 April 1984, p.1161, fig.8).
The antiquarian George Vertue best summarised the art of Monnoyer, 'His flowers have generally in them a Looseness & Freedon of Pencilling, together with a Luster of an Ordonnance, very beautifull & surprising' (E. Croft-Murray, Decorative Painting in England, vol. I, London, 1962, pp.255 and 256).
Further related mirrors with Monnoyer-esque painted over-decoration include one in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London; another at Cotehele, Cornwall; and a final example, thought to have been made for Lord Chesterfield (d.1773) for Chesterfield House, London and sold in these Rooms, 8 July 1993, lot 16 (£128,000)
The head glasses of such pier-glasses were more often decorated with coats of arms, such as Viscount Montagu's mirrors provided for Cowdray, Sussex around 1710 (P. Thornton and J. Hardy, 'The Spencer Furniture at Althorp', Apollo, March 1968, pp. 179-189, fig 3).