Chinese mirror, last quarter of the 18th century


Chinese retro-painted mirror depicting a richly dressed noble lady; he finds himself under a tall tree, while he is walking on a path that overlooks a typically oriental lake landscape.

Dimensions: 162 x 85 x 4 cm


Historical-stylistic analysis:

Traditionally, the Jesuit missionary Giuseppe Castiglione (1688-1715) is credited with having imported the back-painted glass technique to China. This process was already well known in Europe, known as verre églomisé.
The appreciation of the oriental style in the West was such as to give birth, precisely in the 18th century, to the fashion of chinoiserie: objects, furnishings and other accessories were adorned with the characteristic decorative motifs and were specially made in China for export.

Our painted mirror is part of this type of production, which is extremely rare today, especially in consideration of the fragility of the support. In fact, the mirrors were mainly produced in England, from where they were shipped to China. Here, the craftsmen removed sections of mercury from the back, which was later painted. From the oriental workshops, the slabs thus finished faced another long and difficult journey, to finally arrive on the European market.

The pictorial composition of this work, with the lateral tree inhabited by birds, is found in the mirrors produced since the mid-eighteenth century. In fact, they were usually presented in pairs, with the mirror composition and the trees acting as theatrical wings that enclose the scene.

Several similar examples are known also passed in international auctions in recent years; in our case the rectangular cut and the neoclassical frame date it to the last quarter of the century.

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