Looking glass ornament. English, c. 1750

Looking glass ornament. English, c. 1750

In the run up towards teaching carving a basket of flowers I wanted to have another look at this English example from ages ago. It’s an ornament from an English looking glass. I carved a pair of side drapes – leaves and buds – and did a few patches to the leaf tips on this ornament. Then it was delivered to the gilder. If I remember correctly, he made these photos. You’re looking at an ornament carved in wood, gessoed in red and yellow bole, and gilt but with most of the gold leaf missing. This is a classic case of an owner in over his head – he tried to clean the dirty gilding with a damp cloth, which, just like magic, removed the gilding quite well and very quickly! Well, my new carving was gessoed and gilt, the basket was given its second gilding and in the end it looked smashing.

Looking glass ornament. English, c. 1750

Looking glass ornament. English, c. 1750

The front of the basket is again a separate piece, this time deeply back-cut its entire height with two rows of large piercings. Like the one we’re copying, the rose needed a platform on the bottom blank to push it out over the depth of the basket. A screw passing through the carvers-screw boring creats a mechanical attachment to hold all three pieces together.

Looking glass ornament. English, c. 1750

Looking glass ornament. English, c. 1750

I love the curve of the top edge of the basket in elevation (see first image.) There is a definite arch in our ornament, but not the extreme upsweep seen here. This is stylizing the design to create a sense of movement and perspective that a literal cop,y with the top of the basket carved straight across, could not achieve. They knew exactly what they were doing and it will be important to maintain that curved rim in the copies.

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