Thursday, 26 April 2012

Antiques Hunter: French Rococo gilt mirror


This gilt mirror shows many attributes associated with French rococo design. The elaborateness of the decoration is typical of this era in design along with the extravagant curves and feminine form. The fact that it is a functional piece rather than a painting or sculpture is also significant, as rococo was first developed in decorative arts and interior design. A common characteristic of French rococo design is asymmetry which is present in the mirror. The material used creates a sumptuous look to the mirror which was sought after in 18th century when French rococo design was prevalent in society.

The French Rococo era is often described as soft, voluptuous and vaguely erotic. Hunter-Stiebel (2008) stated that “The yin-passive, resilient, female creativity...- has an equally long history that reached its apex in the eighteenth-century style we call rococo.” The curved nature and finicky ornament of the frame reinforces what Hunter-Stiebel wrote. The rococo style veers away from the geometric, masculine designs predominant in neo-classicism and concentrates on a more feminine and curvilinear style.

According to the Encyclopaedia Britannica (2012) “Rococo style represented a reaction against the ponderous design of Louis XIV’s Palace of Versailles and the official Baroque art of his reign. Several interior designers, painters, and engravers, developed a lighter and more intimate style of decoration... with delicate interlacing of curves and counter curves based on the fundamental shapes of the “C” and the “S,” as well as with shell forms and other natural shapes. Asymmetrical design was the rule. Light pastels, ivory white, and gold were the predominant colours, and Rococo decorators frequently used mirrors to enhance the sense of open space.” The design of the mirror clearly shows these characteristics and is an excellent representation of the French rococo design that was widespread in the early 18th century.

Although French rococo was popular in the 18th century the beauty in this piece would not be seen by all. Critics of the Rococo design period would declare this piece as ridiculous and confused. It’s over the top decoration intrudes beyond the frame to make what would be a practical object, impractical. Some would say it is frivolous and ephemeral, even symbolic of a corrupt society.

Coffin, S., Davidson,G., Lupton, E., & Hunter-Stiebel, P. (2008). Rococo: The Continuing Curve, 1730-2008. New York City, United States of America: Assouline Publishing.
Rococo style. (2012). In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved from

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