Monday, May 7, 2012

The latest addition to my home

The latest addition to my home. A 1840's French Louis Philippe period gilt wood frame turned into a mirror. In the Louis XIV/Regence style. The frame is gold leafed with low relief acanthus strapwork with bellflowers and cartouches with grotesque faces in the corners. `  

Last weekend was the monthly estate sale that I attend every month. I thought I was going to leave this sale empty handed except for a few 1960's newspapers off of the dollar table. After my second time around the room reexamining the thousands of displayed items. I noticed behind a Mid-Century modern glass console a large ornate gold framed mirror almost hidden. At first I thought it was one of the many gold toned composition reproduction frames you see now a days. Upon closer inspection I realized it was a very fine period 19th century gold leafed frame. French Louis Philippe period around 1840. But in the Louis XIV/Régence style.  

If this frame was English or American it would termed as Early Victorian but French antiques and decorative arts are names after the king during the time it was made. Louis Philippe - 1830 to 1850, the citizen king or king of the French. Charles X was overthrown in 1830 and Louis Philippe, Duke of Orleans, became France's new leader. He managed both royalists to his right and radicals to the left, while sympathizing with the bourgeois class. The 19th century was a period of reviving older Antique styles and making them up-to-date for modern 19th century living.

Most of the original gold leaf was intact and in good condition on the frame. The frame was in good condition except a decorative face was missing from a lower corner cartouche. Nothing too major of you know how to cast and replace them. Plus I loved the price. Priced at $45.00 it was a bargain. Although the Frame had a mirror in it I think it originally held a painting. Picking the frame up, it was very heavy weighting over  100 pounds. I already had a spot for it in my home. Over my 1840's Alabama made sideboard. 

It has been some time since I have been very pleased with a antique purchase. I now walk into my Dinning room a few times a day just to look at my new find. I'm very pleased with this mirror. I love the color of the original gold leaf . The low relief strapwork design and grotesque faces on the cartouches.  

If you look round the ornate raised patterns on the frame you will see a small repeat hexagonal honeycomb pattern. This design was made by placing a gauze-like cotton Cheesecloth over the wood frame and painting over it with gesso. Then the ornate composition decoration is applied and the whole frame is gold leaf.

You can see the hexagonal honeycomb pattern a little bit better here.

I love the corner cartouches with grotesque faces.

The repeat pattern of the frame is made up of elaborate acanthus "Strapwork"  In the history of art and design, the term strapwork refers to a stylised representation in ornament of strips or bands of curling leather, parchment or metal cut into elaborate shapes, with piercings and often interwoven. Strapwork is a frequent element of grotesques -- arabesque or candelabra figures filled with fantastical creatures, garlands and other elements—which were a frequent decorative motif in 16th century Mannerism, and revived in the 19th century and which may appear on walls—painted, in frescos, carved in wood, or molded in plaster or stucco -- or in graphic work.

The term grotesque was long used largely interchangeably with arabesque and moresque for types of decorative patterns using curving foliage elements.

Since at least the 18th century (in French and German as well as English) grotesque has come to be used as a general adjective for the strange, fantastic, ugly, incongruous, unpleasant, or disgusting, and thus is often used to describe weird shapes and distorted forms such as Halloween masks. In art, performance, and literature, grotesque, however, may also refer to something that simultaneously invokes in an audience a feeling of uncomfortable bizarreness as well as empathic pity. More specifically, the grotesque forms on Gothic buildings, when not used as drain-spouts, should not be called gargoyles, but rather referred to simply as grotesques, or chimeras.

The first appearance of the word grottesche appears in a contract of 1502 for the Piccolomini Library attached to the duomo of Siena. They were introduced by Raphael Sanzio and his team of decorative painters, who developed grottesche into a complete system of ornament in the Loggias that are part of the series of Raphael's Rooms in the Vatican Palace, Rome. "The decorations astonished and charmed a generation of artists that was familiar with the grammar of the classical orders but had not guessed till then that in their private houses the Romans had often disregarded those rules and had adopted instead a more fanciful and informal style that was all lightness, elegance and grace." 

In these grotesque decorations a tablet or candelabrum might provide a focus; frames were extended into scrolls that formed part of the surrounding designs as a kind of scaffold, as Peter Ward-Jackson noted. Light scrolling grotesques could be ordered by confining them within the framing of a pilaster to give them more structure. Giovanni da Udine took up the theme of grotesques in decorating the Villa Madama, the most influential of the new Roman villas.

In the 16th century, such artistic license and irrationality was controversial matter. Francisco de Holanda puts a defense in the mouth of Michelangelo in his third dialogue of Da Pintura Antiga, 1548:

"this insatiable desire of man sometimes prefers to an ordinary building, with its pillars and doors, one falsely constructed in grotesque style, with pillars formed of children growing out of stalks of flowers, with architraves and cornices of branches of myrtle and doorways of reeds and other things, all seeming impossible and contrary to reason, yet yet it may be really great work if it is performed by a skillful artist."

Artists began to give the tiny faces of the figures in grotesque decorations strange caricatured expressions, in a direct continuation of the medieval traditions of the drolleries in the border decorations or initials in illuminated manuscripts. From this the term began to be applied to larger caricatures, such as those of Leonardo da Vinci, and the modern sense began to develop. It is first recorded in English in 1646 from Sir Thomas Browne:"In nature there are no grotesques". By extension backwards in time, the term became also used for the medieval originals, and in modern terminology medieval drolleries, half-human thumbnail vignettes drawn in the margins, and carved figures on buildings (that are not also waterspouts, and so gargoyles) are also called "grotesques".

A boom in the production of works of art in the grotesque genre, characterized the period 1920-1933 of German art. In contemporary illustration art, the "grotesque" figures, in the ordinary conversational sense, commonly appear in the genre grotesque art, also known as fantastic art.

The missing gesso grotesque face on the right hand lower corner is cleverly concealed by a 1850's French Paris porcelain vase. 

In front of the 1840's Louis Philippe frame is a 1830's Louis Philippe troubadour style Paris porcelain tureen

Gilt brass girandole lamp on the sideboard. 

Plus you can see the old mortise and tenon construction of the frame 

Age old Mellowed Yellow ochre paint on the sides of the frame.


  1. Wow, Andrew, that is beautiful! Amazing find!



  2. oh this is divine! i love the mirror- its wonderful! and chandelier, porcelain...everything is very good=) i love all!

  3. Hi Andie and akissfromthepast thanks for your comments. The mirror is amazing and beautiful! I'm well pleased.