Chinoiserie Chippendale Mirror
This 19th-century English mirror has an elegant gilt frame that epitomizes Chinoiserie Chippendale style. Elaborate decorative motifs and graceful curves characterize Chippendale furniture and make it popular with collectors. Chippendale style originated in 18th-century England with the designs of cabinetmaker Thomas Chippendale (1718–1779). Even after his death and the end of the 18th century, Chippendale style remained popular in England and North America through Thomas Chippendale’s book, The Gentleman and Cabinet Maker's Director (1754), which documented his patterns. Chippendale transformed flamboyant French Rococo style for the more reserved English market. This mirror includes quintessential Chippendale characteristics, the gilded wood, decorative detailing, and the curves in the corners of the frame. The top and bottom of the frame are carved into ornate acanthus scrolls, rocaille floral and foliate patterns, and shell motifs. This mirror also exemplifies tasteful British chinoiserie, or Chinese style decoration, in the delicately carved pagoda that tops the frame. Pointed architectural pilasters make up the sides of the frame, imitating the pillars that form the base of the pagoda. Chinese Chippendale style was often found in china cabinets decorated with pagoda pediments and used in rooms decorated in full Chinese style. Chinoiserie grew popular in the 18th century with the rise in trade between Europe and China. This mirror would likely have hung over the mantle in a 19th-century parlor, adding an exotic flair to the luxurious setting.
At this time in England, the SS Great Western made its maiden voyage. Designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel (1806–1859), the Great Western was the first steamship purpose-built for crossing the Atlantic Ocean. The largest passenger ship in the world from 1837–1838, the ship underwent its maiden voyage, traveling from Avonmouth to Bristol to New York, in under fifteen days, making it the fastest transatlantic crossing in both directions. The Great Western was a passenger ship for eight years, before acting as first a cargo ship, and then a troop ship in the Crimean War. The ship was scrapped in 1856.