A Mid 18th Century Chinese Export Mirror Painting
A fine quality and rare mid 18th Century export bevelled mirror painting, depicting ladies taking tea in a pagoda, the background with a river, buildings and mountainous landscape, set in its original black and gilt japanned frame.
Width: 31" 80 cm
Height: 19" 50 cm
English, circa 1780
Brooke Astor, New York,NY. USA
The mirrored picture retains a bevelled edge, this was a sign of quality, and evidence that it has not been altered in size. The rarest forms of these pictures are done in landscapes such as this example. Ladies drinking tea is also a unusual but charming depiction.
The mirrors would have been made in England by hand, and then silvered using mercury, this process needed to be done over a high heat, which would have produced poisonous fumes, as one can imagine a large number of glass plates would have been damaged and lost in this process.
The plates that survived would have been shipped to China through the East India Company. Once the plates arrived in China they would have been painted, this was done by removing a section of the mercury silvering, leaving the rest of the painting silvered (usually sea and sky scapes).
Once the painting had been completed, they were baked in a oven at high temperatures, again this was another treacherous process in their production, and many would have been lost.
On completion the surviving mirror plates were shipped back from China to England. The whole process would have taken years, and it is miraculous that any mirrored plates survived.