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Silver mirror circa 1670

Silver, wood, mirror glass | 210.0 x 126.0 x 10.5 cm (whole object) | RCIN 35300

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  • An upright rectangular English silver mirror on a wooden core, with rounded pediment chased in the centre with an interlaced C monogram (for Charles II), crowned by a mask. The border is chased with trails of foliage intermingled with cornucopia and putti.

    This mirror, marked with the cipher of Charles II, is testimony to the extravagant vogue for silver furniture that reached its height in England during the decades following the Restoration. From the mid-seventeenth century, European rulers had begun to commission silver furnishings on a grand scale, the most famous being Louis XIV's solid silver furniture at Versailles made by the craftsmen of the Manufactures des Gobelins and the Galeries du Louvres. Such spectacular and obviously costly furnishings played an important role in the creation of magnificence and the representation of power. In the state apartments, the combination of a mirror, table and stands was a static arrangement that was commonly placed against the wall in between two windows. At night, light from candelabra placed on stands would have been reflected into the room by the mirror, while the silver surfaces sparkled and glowed, creating a magnificent visual effect.


    While Louis XIV could afford solid silver furniture, Charles II's commissions were largely restricted to the less costly option of a wooden carcase encased in silver to give the effect of a solid piece. The mirror frame has been constructed in this way, with finely chased and embossed silver laid over a basic oak structure and secured with pins and bolts. The design is particularly ornate, with foliage and swags of fruit and flowers interspersed with putti in high relief.


    A second smaller silver mirror in the Royal Collection (rcin 35292), is closer in size to the table although the different scale of the embossed decoration suggests that they were not made to match. The table is embossed with acanthus leaves, and tulips cover the surfaces of the sides, stretcher and table top, culminating in interlaced C's and a crown in the centre. Around the outer edges of the table top evidence of enlargement can be seen, suggesting that it may originally have been smaller. This may correspond to work recorded in the Jewel House accounts for March to June 1686, when a silver table at Whitehall was enlarged to match a mirror in Mary of Modena's apartment at Windsor.


    Bills for silver furnishings purchased by Charles II have not survived, making it impossible to know for certain when or by whom the mirror was made. The design of the mirror reflects the influence of Parisian silversmiths such as Claude Ballin and Nicholas de Launay, who supplied silver furniture for Louis XIV at Versailles. On the other hand, there were silversmiths working in England who were capable of such sophisticated workmanship. One possible candidate is John Cooqus (or Cockus), who was appointed 'silversmith in ordinary to his Matie for chastwork within his Maties bedchamber and closet and also the bedchamber of the Queen' in 1661.Cooqus, who was Dutch, is best known as one of the makers of Nell Gwyn's extravagant bed that featured a silver headboard decorated with reliefs of Charles II's head, crowns, cupids and eagles. His other documented commissions include a 12-branch silver chandelier for the queen that cost the enormous sum of £586 19s and a large quantity of chapel plate for Whitehall and Windsor.


    The first official reference to silver furniture appears in 1681 when the Jewel House received an order to boil (clean) the silver frames of looking glasses in the queen's state bedchamber at Whitehall. By the time of his death in 1685, Charles II's state bedchamber at Whitehall was also furnished with 'a large silver Looking Glasse, and a large Silver Table with a paire of Large silver stands, a large paire of silver ffire Irons, and a paire of Doggs'.The mirror, table and stands were later given to Mary of Modena for use in her state bedchamber at Whitehall where they appear to have remained until at least 1688. Warrants for cleaning prior to the birth of James II's son in June of that year, record that by this time the king and queen had an impressive quantity of silver furniture including six tables, five mirror frames and ten stands, some of which had almost certainly belonged to Charles II.

    Text adapted from Charles II: Art and Power (2017).



    Probably acquired for Charles II.

    This mirror forms part of a composite set together with a table and a pair of stands, all engraved with Charles II's cypher, which were the remnants of far larger suites of silver furnishings, which had been displayed throughout the royal palaces during the reigns of the later Stuarts.

    The popularity of silver furnishings had however diminished in the first half of the eighteenth century and in February 1764 'three silver tables and six stands', together with numerous old sconces, chandeliers and firedogs 'which are not English Standard', were 'Delivered to be melted . . . to be reduced into English Sterling to complete his Majesty's Gift of 8000oz of old Plate to the Duke of Gloucester' - part of a generous gift for George III's third brother, Prince William, Duke of Gloucester.

    In February 1805 an account of 'their Majesties' Fete at Windsor Castle' noted 'the novel and grand appearance of four silver tables, between each window [in the Queen's Ballroom]. The magnificent effect of the tables was considerably heightened by four most elegant pier glasses over each with silver frames'. In addition five silver chandeliers were hung in the Ballroom and the Queen's Drawing Room next door. This magnificent arrangement was recorded in a view of the Queen's Ballroom in 1817. It would therefore appear that elements of at least two of the sets of silver tables, mirrors and stands were spared the melting pot in 1764.

  • Medium and techniques

    Silver, wood, mirror glass


    210.0 x 126.0 x 10.5 cm (whole object)

    91.0 g (Weight) (whole object)