JAIC 1996, Volume 35, Number 3, Article 2 (pp. 185 to 196)
JAIC online
Journal of the American Institute for Conservation
JAIC 1996, Volume 35, Number 3, Article 2 (pp. 185 to 196)




The mirror, as purchased, consists of three panel elements of a rococo period boiserie, two of which bear paper labels of the marchand–mercier François Charles Darnault, whose shop was on the Rue Grenier St. Lazare in Paris in 1751. From the information on Darnault's label we know that he dealt in a variety of “fancy goods,” much like his father who operated a separate shop on the Rue de la Monnoie: carved, gilt wood, and ormolu objects including mirrors of all varieties; decorative items such as lusters and wall lights; and all types of furniture, such as console tables with marble tops, secretaries, gaming tables, writing desks, and screens, some with chinoiserie-type decorated surfaces, others with chased, gilded hardware; and even overdoor paintings. Research continues to be carried out at the Archives Nationales in Paris on the Darnault family and their dealings.1 Perhaps one day we will know in what building these boiserie elements would have been installed, but at this time we do not.

The boiserie mirror we treated, which is long and narrow (11 ft. tall and only 4 ft., 6½ in. wide), is thought to have been originally designed for placement over a soubasement panel (rather than a mantel) within the context of an entire paneled room.2 The Darnault mirror's two narrow, flanking panels, referred to as parcloses, measure 12 in. wide and extend the full height of the central panel; they have not yet been treated at the time of this writing. The central panel, which is the focus of this paper, is composed of 13 separate water-gilded moldings, carved in basswood (or limewood), forming two continuous frames, one above the other. The moldings are fastened with brass screws and applied to a white-painted oak, panel, and frame backboard. One of the paper labels is located in a central floating panel on the backboard facing into the room under the glass plates. The flanking panels are also water-gilded, carved basswood moldings, though more delicate and glued to white-painted oak. The other paper label is on the reverse of one of these narrow panels. The central panel's uppermost frame would have originally surrounded a canvas painting, no longer part of the ensemble. It now surrounds a painted board. The lower frame surrounds the mirror plates (fig. 1). The carving above is characterized by a broad, burnished, scrolled band with a central shell at the crest and stylized rocaille at the corners and sides. Flowers, in the forms of marguerites and roses, punctuate the perimeter. Palmate carved moldings support this upper frame and the center shell from below, and floral garlands spiral down the sides to rest on symmetrical volutes, which flank a delicate, Régence-style molding at the base, entwined in ribbon and ornamented with gadrooning and an inverted central shell. The 13 carved elements that constitute this double frame were originally water-gilded with an ochre size on the matte areas and a red-brown bole on the burnished areas.3 The palm frond motif used on the sides and lower crest moldings is of a design entirely different than that of the base molding. The top frame with its scrolling bands is different yet again. These three disparate carving themes represent a stylistic transition from the Régence period in 1725 through the rococo. Different volumes of matte and burnished surface areas and dark- and light-colored areas between them draw the eye to the area of the frame above, no doubt to emphasize the painting that had originally been displayed in the upper frame.

Copyright © 1996 American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works