A Large French Gesso Faux Bois & Floral Carved Oval Wall Mirror c.1875-90

Origin: French
Period: 3rd Republic
Provenance: Unknown
Date: c.1875-90
Height: 47"
Width: 37"
Depth: 5"

The large and wonderfully decorative stained plaster and gesso faux bois and floral crested mirror, at nigh on four feet high, the original (?) oval mercury glass mirror plate now beautifully clouded and foxed with age, encased by simulated naturalistic wood, each bound together with simulated rope, to a large floral spray with flower heads to the top and a smaller bunches to the others corners with ivy leaves, the whole surviving from late nineteenth century France.

The mirror is in attractively aged and decorative condition with the patina to the gesso and plaster very well established and uncleaned. The mercury plate glass is wonderfully foxed and cloudy, with good spreads to the whole plate; please refer to the photographs for a visual reference. The gesso is a little fragile and brittle but once on a wall she would be fine; there are hanging brackets for wall mounting. There are chips and un-restored losses to the extremities of the gesso and plaster carvings as photographed. The reverse panel may well be a later replacement.

Faux bois (from the French for false wood) refers to the artistic imitation of wood or wood grains in various media. The craft has roots in the Renaissance with trompe-l'œil. It was probably first crafted with concrete using an iron armature by garden craftsmen in France called "rocailleurs" using common iron materials: rods, barrel bands, and chicken wire. Early examples of the craft survive at Parc des Buttes-Chaumont opened for an exposition in Paris in 1867.

In 1873, the inventor of ferrocement, Joseph Monier expanded his patents to include bridges. He designed the first bridge of reinforced concrete, crossing the moat at the Chateau Chazelet, in France and it was sculpted to resemble timbers and logs. Most popular in the late 19th century through the 1940s, ferrocement faux bois has largely disappeared with the passing of those most expert in its practice. What few objects remain from that peak period (mostly in the form of garden art, such as planters, birdbaths or stools) are now highly prized by collectors. This particular piece would have found its inspiration from rural France, amongst the beautiful countryside and would have been a focal point in a chateau.

One of the best mirrors we have owned, it is able to single-handedly transform a room and is an achingly beautiful piece that is as much of a work of sculpture as it is a painting or, indeed, mirror.