The pagoda form arched cresting above split and marginal mirror plates within rocaille rock work and foliate form borders, cluster columns with gothic arches and ho ho birds with a shaped and pierced apron.
This superb mirror formed part of the collection of the New York born Waldorf Astor, 2nd Viscount Astor (19 may 1879- 30 September 1952), and his wife, Nancy Astor, also of American descent, who inherited the family estate at Cliveden in Buckinghamshire, as an extravagant wedding gift from his father.
The house, which was purchased by William Waldorf Astor, 1st Viscount Astor, from Hugh Lupus Grosvenor, 1st Duke of Westminster in 1893, underwent significant restoration and redecoration under the direction of Nancy Astor, and was acclaimed and revered for the couple's fine and exquisite entertaining, known as 'the Golden Period', amongst the wealthy elite.
The couple held a strong interest in British politics that dominated most of their life. Nancy, with the influence of her husband, became the first female in Parliament from 1919-1945.During her period of office, Lady Astor championed numerous causes, such as State Health Care and Town Planning, votes for women at twenty-one and various other issues that advocated equality between men and women.
The connection between Cliveden, politics and entertainment continued to grow. The famous comedienne, who became such a hit in New York, Joyce Grenfell was a frequent visitor, and indeed was Nancy Astor’s niece. Winston Churchill was a guest during the earlier days of entertaining and party to many a heated political debate with Nancy. On one known visit to nearby Blenheim, Lady Astor was prompted to say, ‘Winston, if I were your wife I’d put poison in your coffee.’ to which Winston responded, ‘Nancy if I were your husband I’d drink it’. Other prominent visitors included the artist John Singer Sargent, who painted portraits of several family members, and George Bernard Shaw, with whom Lady Astor enjoyed a close friendship and correspondence, and was once addressed by him as ‘Dearest Fancy Nancy’.
During the 1960’s the house became linked with the infamous ‘Profumo Affair’, where John Profumo, the Secretary of State for war met the call girl, Christine Keeler at a party hosted by Lord Astor in July 1961. It was this scandalous affair coupled with her illicit liaison with a soviet naval attaché that outraged parliament and in 1963, as the Cold War began to challenge Britain’s political system, it led to his resignation from office.
During this so called ‘Golden Period’ one can imagine, and, with regard to the Profumo scandal, one doesn’t have to imagine, all the amazing goings on that would have been reflected in this wonderful mirror. Framed by its foliate borders, cluster columns and gothic arches, would have been some of the most prominent artistic and political figures of the early 20th Century.
A number of design details are to be found in drawings by Ince and Mayhew in their book, ‘Universal System of Household Furniture’. Most notably, Plate LXXXV and LXXXV.
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