Title: Mirror
Date: c.1750
Medium: Carved giltwood
236 x 194 cm
Credit Line: Milltown Gift, 1902
Object Number: NGI.12090
DescriptionAn outstanding piece of carving, more sculpture than furniture, this mirror reflects the Rococo love of nature and the exotic, with chinoiserie elements in the pagoda shape and Chinese heads, alongside palm fronds, leaves and flowers, shells, mossy rocks, poured water, shells and ribbons. At the top, two squawking dragons sit either side of the central broken pediment, and there is a small bird (almost concealed) at the base. This was one of five large mirrors, seven smaller oval ones and two overmantels for paintings commissioned by Joseph Leeson for his various homes, from a Dublin maker, who is yet to be satisfactorily identified. The flamboyance of their decoration and lavish application of gilding is very different from more conservative London examples, even though the source of many decorative motifs can be found in published engravings by Thomas Chippendale, Mathias Lock and Thomas Johnson. The reverse, never intended to be seen is, conversely, almost crudely chiselled in places. This mirror still has its original glass, unlike a pendant of the same size with a cascade of Rococo ornament. They once hung in the dining room at Leeson’s country house, Russborough, complementing a 1742–43 silver dinner service by George Wickes (now dispersed) and individual pieces by Dublin and London makers.

March 2016
Label TextJoseph Leeson, 1st Earl of Milltown, commissioned the two mirrors displayed here for his dining room at Russborough, Co. Wicklow. They took pride of place alongside his portrait by Pompeo Batoni. Outstanding examples of Rococo design, by an unknown maker, the ornamental detail includes palm fronds, flowers, a bird, mossy rocks and dripping water, and a Chinese pagoda. At the top, a pair of snarling dragons flank a broken pediment and pierced bands with C curves. These elaborate sculptural forms and lack of hard edges make the mirror difficult to move and handle.