In our latest series, Elizabeth Pash, designer and owner of Elizabeth Pash Interiors & Antiques, will be sharing one item you should be on the lookout for when shopping for antiques. Get to know our Girl on the Ground, just in time for your weekend shopping!
As fabulous as a collection of Francois Lembo jeweled mirrors is on a wall, if you're looking for one big, substantial piece to serve as your focal point, be on the lookout for a Louis Philippe mirror. Typically rectangular, the mirrors feature rounded top corners and squared off bottom corners, finished in gold or silver leaf, or occasionally, in a dual finish. The clean lines and versatility of Louis Philippe mirrors allow them to work well in traditional, transitional or even contemporary settings, making them a perfect fit for just about any home.
If you're wondering about the name, it refers to the Louis Philippe period in France, which took place in the mid-19th century. Following a period of exile, Philippe returned to become King of France from 1830-48. Although some furniture from this period can be bulky and heavy looking, the mirrors are quite lovely and versatile.
The most authentic, highest-quality mirrors are wood (as opposed to resin) and are finished in gold leaf or silver leaf. What makes some better than others?
It's beautiful when the gold or silver leaf has faded slightly, and some of the red clay, or bole, is peeking through. When the finish is too uniform, it is a sign that the mirror was recently re-done or may be a reproduction. An inner beaded molding is a lovely detail:
The most interesting mirrors have subtle detailing on the frames. The design can be geometric, like a Greek key, or a floral or leaf pattern. An added bonus is original mercury glass. Look at the wonderfully "wavy" mercury glass on this beauty:
It is rare to find these mirrors with elaborate carving on the frames. If you do see that kind of workmanship, snap it up immediately!
It is also important to look at the back of any mirror—the old ones usually look a little beat up, so if you see one that looks brand new on the back, chances are it is not as old, and probably a reproduction.
As with all things antique, it is important to know the difference between period and style. A Louis Philippe-period mirror is authentic if produced during the actual time period, and well into the latter half of the 19th century. A mirror in the Louis Philippe style was produced much later and was created using the style elements of the period.
These mirrors can be used anywhere—over a mantel, in an entry, a bedroom. They are also lovely in a powder room. They add a sense of timeless elegance.
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