A George II carved giltwood mirror of impressive scale and quality, in the manner of Matthias Lock, the two later plates separated by a carved floral band, flanked by symmetrical borders of opposing 'C' scrolls with further acanthus decoration, pierced shell work and drops of fruit and flowers, supporting a boldly-carved broken scrollwork pediment of similar design, centred by an asymmetrical cabochon cartouche with foliate sprays, the base similarly decorated with a central cabochon.
This mirror was made at the time when furniture design in England was moving on from the more formal, architectural forms of the William Kent period and coming under the influence of the French rocaille style. Straight lines were giving way to asymmetric curves and straight-faced Palladian masks were becoming expressive human faces. Matthias Lock was the first English furniture designer to evolve this new look, which he developed into the full rococo style, prior even to Chippendale.
Lock was a highly accomplished carver and designer, recorded at two London addresses: Nottingham Court, Castle Street, Long Acre in 1746 and 'Near The Swan', Tottenham Court Road in 1752. It is believed that he was engaged for a period by Chippendale for certain drawings and carving work. Between 1740 and his death in 1765 he published numerous books of designs for furniture, including mirrors and girandoles, some in collaboration with Henry Copland. These always reflected the latest fashion and so in the later years they progressed to the neo-classical taste. The Victoria and Albert Museum retains many of his original drawings, which were acquired in the middle of the 19th century from the Lock family. After Lock's death, many of his works were reprinted. The publisher described him as 'the famous Matt Lock recently deceased who was reputed the best Draftsman in that way that had ever been in England'.
The best known of Lock's major commissions was the furniture he supplied to the 2nd Earl Poulett for Hinton House in Somerset in the early 1740's, of which a pier glass and pier table are also now in the Victoria and Albert Museum. The mirror illustrated here comes from this same period. The natural motifs, all much favoured devices of Lock are composed and carved with superlative skill and liveliness. The foliate, flower and scroll elements all became essentials later in the rococo drawing books but here they are still controlled within a certain symmetry. This mirror thus spans two important design traditions and is perhaps an example, like the Hinton House mirror, of one made for a patron who wished to be up-to-date but was not yet willing to espouse the full-blown fantasy and asymmetry of the emerging rococo. It is a masterful compromise.
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