A Brief History of the MirrorThe history of mirrors is a fascinating one. Stones were polished into mirrored furniture surfaces as early as 4000 B.C.E., but it wasn’t until the First Century that Romans began fashioning simplistic mirrors from glass as home decor. There was a lull in the evolution of the mirror during the Middle Ages due to the early Christian church claiming it was a symbol of sin and vanity. Pope John XII even declared, “The Devil can conceal in a phial or a mirror.” The invention of glass blowing during the 14th century sparked interest in mirror production once more, and new techniques brought great advances. Flat glass mirrors may be attributed to the Venetians, who turned their attention to mirror production in the 16th century. Once a mirror technique was established and perfected, glass artisans became fiercely protective and determined to keep their method a secret. Craftsman were sworn to secrecy and threatened with imprisonment or even execution if they divulged the Venetian trade secrets. Those talented enough to create flat mirrors were kept on a small island, Murano, isolated from the outside world. These efforts were not unwarranted, as European monarchs desperate to discover the technique avidly engaged in espionage and bribery. Finally, in 1687, three Murano craftsman were paid enough to be smuggled to France to expose the Venetian trade secrets. From then on, the development and production of decorative mirrors went full steam ahead.
Although production was escalating, mirrors were incredibly costly. Cabinetmakers such as Thomas Chippendale and John Linnell were importing glass from France to their wealthy English clients. The popularity of the mirror spread from France and Italy to other parts of the world, but manufacturing a mirror was still an incredibly delicate and dangerous process, causing expenses to rise. It wasn’t until 1835 that mirror production became more affordable and rid of mercury when German chemist, Justus von Liebig, invented a new method of backing sheets of glass with a thin layer of real silver.
Decorating with Mirrors
Mirrored furniture pieces were not only a way to gaze upon your reflection, but also became a decorative addition to a room. With the right size and style, a mirror can tie together an entire space. Mirrors as decor can also create the illusion of a larger, more open atmosphere. For example, the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles is not only a stunning space to wander, but also a breathtaking experience due to the mirrors being strategically placed opposite to sources of natural light, creating a glamorous illusion and infinite space. While your decorative goals may not be so lofty as to replicate the extravagant French Palace, by adding a mirror to a room with natural light you can expand your space with a dramatic flare.
Frame StylesJust like manufacturing techniques varied and evolved, so did framing styles for wall mirrors. Tastes change over time, and since the framed mirror has been in production for hundreds of years, there is a wide breadth of choices for your particular aesthetic. Knowing the background of a specific style of frame for your mirror helps add meaning to what you’re using to decorate your home.
In the beginnings of its evolution, the mirror itself was so expensive to craft that artisans often created a magnificent frame to befit the precious glass. Decorative mirrors from the 18th and 19th centuries most commonly boasted floral swags and garlands in a Rococo style. Because of the opulent intricacy of gilded mirrors, it is difficult to find an antique one without pieces that have been broken off and restored. If you are lucky to find a pristine mirror in this style, hold onto it! This particular large mirror is exemplary of the era’s highly ornamental, yet elegant style. A mirror such as this is highly coveted because few mirrors dating back to the mid-18th century survive. It would act as a stunning focal point to any room and add a beautiful decorative touch. When you decorate with mirrors, the whole interior design of a room becomes elevated.
If you are looking to hang for a mirror with a less commanding presence than the Rococo style, yet still want an eye catching and rare antique addition, this dignified William and Mary mirror would be a perfect fit. Featuring its original silver glass, the mirror is truly a one-of-a-kind find. Crafted by cabinet-maker Hugh Granger, the frame is made of stunning exotic fruit wood and sycamore marquetry in a cushion shape and signed by its maker. It would be perfectly placed in-between two windows with a table and stools beneath it, an interior design choice popular during the end of the reign of King Charles II. If you are looking for a stunning focal point in your bedroom, living room, or dining room, this wall mirror would be an excellent choice.
This unique convex framed mirror will add a resplendent touch to any room. Mirrors of this caliber, especially convex glass, were made only by the most respected and talented craftsmen. With a noble ebony eagle perched atop the acanthus, this one-of-a-kind piece is sure to dazzle any onlooker. To make it even more desirable, the eye catching mirror features two exceptional girandoles on either side. Although a convex mirror like this may not be useful for seeing your true reflection, the girandoles make it a useful light source for a room.
Whether you are looking for an opulent and decorative Rococo style, or slightly more modest yet still exceptional one, a mirror is a perfect addition to a room. It will add a personal flare as well as expand your space in the most elegant of ways. Shop our website here to see the wide variety of mirrors we have to offer!