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Work Rock-crystal mirror

Department of Decorative Arts: 17th century

Rock-crystal mirror

© 2001 RMN / Jean-Gilles Berizzi

Decorative Arts
17th century

Author(s):
Barbier Muriel

The mirror was purchased by Louis XIV in 1684 from the dealer Le Brun at the same time as the sconce MR 251. It comprises several pieces of sard and cameos. The stones are set off by a metalwork mount in the style of Pierre Delabarre, a 17th-century goldsmith. This work reflects the interest of 17th-century collectors in hard stone and the richness of Louis XIV's collection of precious and semiprecious stones.

Cameos and sard to frame a mirror

The rectangular rock-crystal mirror is set in a frame decorated with pieces of sard, probably reused stones. The shape of the frame is evocative of a window recess or frame. It comprises a discontinuous arched pediment supported by two small columns, and a base. The two molded elements forming the pediment may have come from ancient vases; the gray agate columns were possibly produced as part of the decoration of a cabinet; and the two small vases at the top corners were probably carved from reused agate eggs. The cameos date from the Renaissance. The agate cameos on the frieze depict the twelve Caesars facing each other two by two; the cameo at the center of the base shows Diana's head in profile; and the cameo in the center of the pediment represents a woman's head, also in profile. At the foot of the columns set against a metal strip are two busts in garnet that are similar to a garnet and gold bust of a warrior kept in the Bibliothèque Nationale de France.

A mount in enameled gold and precious stones

The mount has the same characteristics as the sconce MR 251. It features small openwork leaves and enameled gold seeds. The enamel is both opaque (white, light green, light blue, mauve) and translucent (dark blue, green, orange, red, black). The enamel decoration is located at the base and runs around the mirror itself and the precious stones. The pea-pod motif -common in goldwork in the first half of the 17th century - is also present, especially on either side of the Diana cameo. The capitals and the bases of the columns also feature painted white enamel decorated with polychrome palmettes and seeds. The decoration is similar to that surrounding the base of the ewer MR 445.

A mount in the style of Delabarre

Collectors of hard stones liked to enhance them with metalwork mounts. Two styles of mount were favored in 17th-century France: the "Delabarre" style, after the goldsmith Pierre Delabarre, and a more classical style. The mirror in the Louvre is representative of the "Delabarre" style. At the time, there existed collections of model bouquets made up of small cutout leaves with trefoil, pointed, or rounded shapes, often hollowed out. Inside the bouquets were strings of seeds and pea pods. One of the ornamentalists who created such bouquets was Pierre Delabarre, who was appointed master goldsmith in Paris in 1625 and granted lodgings at the Louvre. The bouquets were reworked in precious metals by goldsmiths. The pieces of sard and the cameos are assembled on gilded brass plaques and joined up with small enameled gold leaves in the style of Delabarre - some of them hollowed out - in opaque or translucent enamel. This mount is also dotted with white seeds. This decoration is very similar to that of the sconce purchased by Louis XIV at the same time.

Bibliography

Un temps d'exubérance : les arts décoratifs sous Louis XIII et Anne d'Autriche, Editions de la Réunion des musées nationaux, 2002, p. 282-283.
Alcouffe Daniel, Les Gemmes de la Couronne, 2001, p. 391-393.

Technical description

  • Rock-crystal mirror

    C. 1630

    Paris

  • Frame: sard, agate, sard cameos, rubies, diamonds, emeralds, garnets, enamelled gold

    H. 40 cm; W. 28.30 cm; D. 5 cm

  • Purchased by Louis XIV in 1684 to the marchand Le Brun

    MR 252

  • Decorative Arts

    Denon wing
    1st floor
    Galerie d'Apollon
    Room 66

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Additional information about the work

Number engraved on the back: 291 (1791 inventory number). Handwritten label on the back: 291