Antique mirrors including Italian and French antique mirrors
Antique mirrors, available in various styles and periods, add an extra dimension in any room in, as well as reflecting light to create a brighter space. A 19c French mirror, such as a trumeau mirror, makes an excellent addition to a romantic bedroom furnished with coordinating French furniture. An Italian antique mirror with gilded frame and ornate carving embodies opulent grandeur and provides the finishing touch to any luxurious space. As an alternative, Antique Swedish mirrors with painted frames have more relaxed distressed look and achieve a less formal feel.
History of mirrors
A mirror is defined simply as a surface which reflects an image. Early mirrors were made of highly polished metals, such as bronze and sometimes silver. These were luxury items owned by wealthy individuals. As they were expensive items they tended to be hand mirrors, used specifically to look at one’s own reflection. It wasn’t until the 16th century that mirrors made from coated glass began to be made in significant numbers in Europe, but it remained an expensive process for a further three centuries. In 1835 the silvered-glass mirror was invented in Germany. It was this development that led to cheaper mirror production and therefore more widespread use of mirrors for purely decorative purposes.
19c French mirrors come in a variety of different styles, from those with a discreet, simple, painted frame to those with a gilded, heavily carved frame. Antique French mirrors are the perfect choice to complement a range of styles of interior decor. Take advantage of the greater reflective surface of a larger mirror, and use in a small, dark room to create the illusion of a brighter, wider space. Smaller, more decorative French mirrors can add style and atmosphere in the bedroom, bathroom or living room.
The French word trumeau refers to the space between two windows. Originally manufactured in France during the 18th century, Trumeau mirrors were specifically designed to hang in the spaces between windows as a decorative feature which also served to reflect light around the room. They are almost exclusively set into a rectangular wooden panel in order to fit the gap between fenestrations. 19c trumeau mirrors (sometimes called pier-glass in English) tend be lavishly ornamented or gilded, often incorporating a painted scene above the mirror itself. Trumeau mirrors can be considered as works of art and look quite beautiful above a mantelpiece or for their original purpose, especially in a Georgian property with rectangular windows which would be perfectly suited.
Unsurprisingly, Venice was the centre of glass mirror production for a great many decades. The process of making a mirror by applying a substrate to the back of a glazed panel was invented in the 16th century. As a city famous for its glass-making industry, Venice soon began producing high quality mirrors desired by the great and the good of Europe. Venetian mirrors were seen as the ultimate accessories for palaces throughout Europe.
Today, antique Italian mirrors are seen as attractive additions to a variety of spaces furnished with antique furniture. Italian mirrors are often especially ornate and frequently have an unusual non-geometric shape. More often than not they are gilded. This type of antique mirror makes a lovely feature in a bedroom, or the perfect grand statement in a bathroom. Girandoles, small antique mirrors which were designed to hold candlesticks and reflect their light, are particularly popular. A pair of girandoles would bring an attractive element into an entrance hall, or would look especially appealing symmetrically positioned in the recesses either side of a chimney breast.