Brief description

Looking glass with an ogee-moulded frame veneered with cross-grained olivewood, and a mercury and tin 'foiled' glass mirror, made in England in c.1670-1710.

Object name


Object number



On Display

Production date

1670-1710 (framed)

Production place

England (framed)


Stuart (1603-1714)





Physical description

Mirror or looking glass, made from glass with a mercury and tin 'foiled' [silvered] back, olive wood veneers, and a softwood substrate. The olivewood veneers are cross-grained, and the mirror has a rectangular bevelled plate within a narrow ogee-section inner moulding and a broad, bevelled ogee frame, with ovolo outer mouldings. There is a label, hand-written in pencil or crayon, glued to the lower cross rail of the back frame, which reads ‘This / glass / belongs / to J [?] Wills [?]’.

Some of the following details on the construction are conjectural. The frame is a layered construction, consisting first of a rectangle of four softwood battens about 6mm thick. The vertical battens run the full height to the mirror, the horizontal rails are set between them and butted to them, but the joints do not appear to be glued. The top edge of the rectangle is rebated by about 4mm along its length to accept a cresting if desired, the rebate being hidden being the outer olive wood moulding. Onto this rectangular base is glued a second rectangle of four pieces of softwood about 25mm thick. The horizontal pieces run across the full width of the mirror, bridging the joints in the first rectangle, and the vertical pieces are set between them, possibly joined to the horizontals by some kind of halving joint. The second rectangle is planed to a bevel on its upper face to which the olive veneers are glued. The inner and outer olive wood mouldings are faced onto narrow strips of softwood which are in turn glued to the softwood substrate. All the veneers are glued to the substrate in short cross-grain pieces; they are of varying thickness depending on the section [profile] worked into them; most probably started at about 6mm thick.

The glass is inserted from the back, and is retained by a rebate cut into the softwood substrate of the inner ogee moulding; it is kept in place by softwood fillets glued to the inner sides of the frame, and these also act as spacers to keep the backboard clear of the glass. The backboard is in two pieces, both softwood, one wider than the other and both set vertically within the frame; they are retained by cut steel or iron nails. The mirror is suspended by a metal ring hinging on a crudely-cut folded metal strip nailed to the frame with 5 hand-made nails. At the base of the frame there are two folded leather tabs fixed with hand made nails. These tabs have been broken off short.

The glass is heavily foxed, with the foil patchy and missing at the top left side. It is about 3mm thick and probably original. The veneers have a uniformly high gloss finish, possibly of wax over varnish. There is darkening, which may be dirt, in the hollows and crevices of the frame. There are very small traces of whiteish paint or gesso in several places, suggesting that the mirror has been refinished. The veneers appear to be substantially original.

The frame has been reinforced at the two upper and bottom left corners with pairs of modern screws; these presumably pass through both layers of the frame. The narrower section of the backboard is modern; the wider section is older but possibly not original. The nails retaining the backboard could be original, and are almost certainly in their original positions. Around the inside of the frame are traces of glue.


Height: 55cm
Width: 49cm

Website keywords



Label text for 1695 Period Room (Room 2), Geffrye Museum, 2010:
Encouraged by the government to compete with foreign imports, the manufacture of mirrors in London increased significantly in the 1660s and they became a characteristic feature of the parlours of the middling sort. Mirror glass held a fascination – sparkling, reflecting the light and allowing the occupants of a room to see themselves. Their use in parlours helped
people to be more aware of their appearance and behaviour in social situations.
Olivewood veneer, softwood carcase, possibly original plate, c1690
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