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  - Carved and gilded trumeau mirror »à parecloses«

Carved and gilded trumeau mirror »à parecloses«

After an engraving by Jean-Bernard-Honoré Turreau,
called Toro (1672–1731)
Italy, c. 1730

Poplar, carved, engraved, punched and gilded; old mirror glass
H. 240 cm (94½ in.), W. 134 cm (52¾ in.)
For comparison:

The figural ornamentation of a mirror in the Palazzo Pitti in Florence also derives from an engraving by Toro (cf. Enrico Colle, I mobili di palazzo Pitti. Il primo periodo lorenese 1737-1799, Turin, 1992, p. 148, cat. no.76).

This magnificent monumental mirror derives its particular character from its strictly axisymmetric structure which is subdivided into an inner and outer frame by several linking elements called “traverses.” While the inner frame is arched, the outer frame is notable for its elaborate curves and expansive ornamentation. The profiled frame moulding is finely chased and is twined at regular intervals with foliate tendrils. In several places the frame is overlaid with expansive acanthus leaf motifs forming C- and S-scrolls. Acanthus motifs and lambrequins also form the linking elements between the inner and outer frames.
The central crowning element is a rising pediment-like socle on which crouches an eagle, its wings outspread and neck craning downwards. It seems to be attacking the wrinkled brow of the grotesque winged mascaron below it, whose features grimace in pain, its gaping mouth forming an oval armorial cartouche. Flanking this on scrolling pediments are two mirror-inverted, upright striding eagles in side profile. They bear swags of fruit in their beaks that dip evenly in a pendent U shape.
Projecting S-shaped elements on either side support female busts with orientalised head-coverings. In the lower third on each side hissing dragons with involuted tails writhe outwards, their paws resting on consoles. Their tails intrude into the outer surfaces of the mirror, just touching the inner frame. The mirror finishes below in a central agraffe motif with a framed mascaron wearing a chaplet of flowers. The lower edges are drawn down in dynamic curves, terminating on each side in a waisted acanthus-shaped agraffe.
In its structure, this imposing salon mirror follows French examples à parecloses of the Régence period defined by an axisymmetric structure with two parallel arched mouldings (known as baguettes à la Bérain), a dynamic contour with expansive spandrels and applied ornamentation. While the surface of the mirror consists of one piece, the frame is composed of numerous pieces that were made separately and joined together. The superbly detailed carving is mostly worked in half-relief, with only the figural elements fully articulated in the round.
The decorative canon is also indebted to the Régence period, with elements of early Rococo forms. The carver evidently drew his inspiration from an engraving from the series Desseins Arabesques a Plusieurs Usages published by the Parisian copperplate engraver Charles Nicolas Cochin I (Paris 1688–1754 Paris) in 1716. The designs are the work of the Toulon-based sculptor Jean-Bernard-Honoré Turreau, called Toro (Toulon 1672–1731 Toulon), whose grotesque compositions with grimacing mascarons and fanciful mythical creatures were widely disseminated across Europe.

The creator of the present mirror thus drew both on Toro’s engravings and French models from the period around 1730. Both the use of poplar as well as the reddish-brown poliment gilding are indicative of Italian provenance. In contrast to French pieces of similarly high quality, the Italian models make a less dynamic impact, exhibiting less painstaking attention to detail. It is almost impossible to make a definitive statement as to its localisation, since both Venetian and Genoese carvers specialised in showpiece mirrors of this kind.
Provenance: The mirror once belonged to the furnishings of the Gran Salone in the Roman Renaissance palazzo Pecci Blunt, where it hung above a wall console in the space between two windows (cf. Fabio Benzi and Caroline Vincenti Montanaro, Palaces of Rome, New York, 1997, p. 126).

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