I vastly favor antique mirrors with old—preferably original—glass. Old glass is wavy, hazy, sometimes a bit spotted or otherwise degraded by time. It has the right character to convey the piece's age, which new glass just cannot do. How much aging is the right amount? Well, a light sprinkling of dots is nice; maybe a grey haze of time. But I've never seen glass which looked "too old." In my life, only the bathroom mirror needs to be ultra-clear. This is where I shave and perform other delicate functions (sometimes with sharp implements) and want to see precisely what I am doing. All other times, "soft focus" is just fine. The American Empire mirror, shown above, is a handsome specimen of good design, in good condition.
The Empire style began in France in the time of Napoleon (roughly around 1810) and was a revival of Classical design from the Ancient World. Napoleon had led earlier expeditions to Egypt where the ancient aesthetic was well documented by his artist-troops. (These renderings were even published in books for a style-hungry public.) Ancient Roman design also had an influence on the French Empire style.
American Empire design lagged by a decade or two. It took a bit of time for the French Style to travel across the Atlantic. But it did, eventually, land on our shores and it was popular. The elegant simplicity suited American Protestants who were eager for a sophisticated, Continental look—and a change from the busier, Greek-inspired Neoclassicism of the previous 50 years.
The mirror, above, was made in the 1830's or 1840's. Highly-figured, book-matched crotch mahogany veneering provides a warm, colorful frame to the aged mirror it surrounds. The only other decoration is the scrolling pediment at top and the ribbon moulding around the edge of the frame. Click on one of the photos above to learn more about this handsome mirror.
Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well! Please visit our on-line store where we continue to sell Handsome Gifts (www.LEOdesignNYC.com).
We also can be found in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania at The Antique Center of Strabane (www.antiquecenterofstrabane.com).
Or call to arrange to visit our Pittsburgh showroom (by private appointment only). 917-446-4248