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Pair of Victorian Metalwork Mirrors by Francis Skidmore

By Francis Skidmore, read more.

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About this piece

England, circa 1860

Of portrait rectangular form, with silvered electrotyped base frame with raised mirror border and rounded corners inset with stylized and clasped cabuchons of cut-glass resembling floral discs, the top rail decorated with a foliate crest including further flowers, leaves and creepers, with original shaped mirror plate. On the reverse wooden backing is a hand-written inscription of partially decipherable text including a date of 23 Feb 1863  - it appears to be a person's name, followed by a location, then the word fixed followed by the above date. (please see image 3)

The chosen flowers and floriography would appear to all come from the Composite Family, otherwise known as the sunflower or daisy family. During the Victorian Era, floriography became commonly used to express symbolic messages that Victorian etiquette deemed unacceptable to share openly, such as the exchange of emotions in public. The gifts most exchanged during social engagements in the Victorian Era were often flowers and careful consideration was given to the intended message and metaphor.

The pair were probably privately commissioned as a wedding gift, being both a 'couple' and the flowers representing adoration, loyalty and longevity - the foundations of wedlock. A similar use of the floral cabochon motif can be seen in the William Burges Brooch at the V&A (please see image 4), made in 1864 as a marriage gift to the distinguished architect John Pollard Seddon. 

Skidmore's early commissions were often eccestistical and foremented his early Gothic Revival aesthetic, as was being promoted by the Church during the Victorian era (please see image 5) such as his Candlestand from Holy Trinity Church, Coventry, from the 1950s. As his reputation grew he started his own factory at Alma Street and from the 1860s onwards his work was sent around the globe. With increasing growth and industrial capacity he moved into the domestic market and began producing items of furniture and objects of everyday use, such as light fittings, chairs and quite probably the above mentioned mirrors. The hand-written date from the 1860s would also correctly correlate to this production period. Equally, one can see on the back of the mirrors hand-stamped numbers for the component parts, indicating production systems for volume-based output but still carrying the technical charms indicative of the 19th century (image 6 - component stamp No. 1)

During this period Skidmore was also using a lot of electrotyping, a relatively new technique of coating base metal with silver (as like the mirrors) or gold. Equally, the stylised imagery used on the mirrors is inspired not only from his earlier ecclesiastical work but is now paired down with a gentler secular force, an aesthetic open to the growing middle classes and botanical beauty and naturalism of the Aesthetic Movement and soon to be Art Nouveau. A design sketch at the V&A from about 1865-1872 for brackets for gas lighting show a very similar use of the clasped cabuchons and leaves, particularly in sketches No.2 & 11 (please see image 7 & 8)

Stylistically the mirrors stand between the heavier Gothic Revival of Skidmore's past and the lighter naturalism and fluidity of Art Nouveau and the Aesthetic movement, a style that would begin to dominate his designs towards the end of the Century


H 102cm x W 69cm
H 40" x W 27"

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