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Carved, sculpted walnut mirror

Specchiera di legno di noce scolpito

Mid 18th Century Venice Walnut Mirror
Ancient Venice Walnut Mirror, Circa 1750

It measures: 53.93 x 33.46 in (137 x 85 cm)
Weight : 30.86 lb (14 kg)
State of conservation: slight gluing

The walnut mirror has an elongated rectangular shape, crowned with a decorative three-lobed sculpted and carved molding.

The frame encircles the mirror with a series of rabbet grooves. A rocaille carved molding is attached above, showing off its curved decorative elements. These descend along the sides of the mirror frame and are further enhanced with the presence of volutes “pennaccette”, small leafy elements and minute buds.

The mercury mirror is original.

As a decorative element, mirrors represent a refined expression of the Rococo style in Venice around the middle of the XVIII century. During this period, decorated mirrors, previously used primarily as an accessory for the dressing table, began to become more important pieces of furniture in themselves. In fact, during the eighteenth century, the tradition of creating carved works developed such strong roots that inside the “marangoni (carpenters’) guild”, a particular branch of master carvers was born. These artisans were known as the “marangoni da soaza” and were specialized in the creation of wooden frames. At the same time, the workshops of artisans active in the art of “soaza” began to multiply: in fact, according to statistics issued in 1773 by the “Magistratura dei Savi della Mercanzia,” there were 36 specialized workshops with 94 mastercraftsmen, 124 workers and 24 boys.

Their skill in sculpting is expressed not only in the creation of frames in the most varied and rich shapes, but in decorating them with carved wooden elements. Particular attention was paid to the sculpted moldings, which served as an indispensable crown for the upper part of the mirror. These ornate decorations demonstrated all the crafting skills and creative imagination which the Venetian masters could bring to bear with their full repertoire of leaves, shells, and festoons alternating with leaf scrolls. These framed the central cornice, creating the asymmetrical effect characteristic of the mid-eighteenth century.

This work falls firmly in this taste: in the choice of its noble material and the refusal to use lacquer so as to create a particularly harmonious sculptural work.


Photography: Fabrizio Stipari


G. Mariacher, Specchiere italiane e cornici da specchio, dal XV al XIX secolo, Milano 1963, pp. 16-24;
E. Colle, Il mobile barocco in Italia, Milano 2000, p. 332;
C. Santini, Mille mobili veneti. L’arredo domestico in Veneto dal sec. XV al sec. XIX, III, Modena 2002.
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