Reflections of the Past: Masterpiece Mirrors 1685-1815, Oct. 15-30, 2004, at Ingrao, Inc., 17 East 64th Street, New York, N.Y., 10021
Anyone who thinks antiques are in a withering decline should head over to Ingrao Inc. in Manhattan and take a look at "Reflections of the Past," the dazzling "guest exhibition" by London's Ronald Phillips Ltd. devoted to antique mirrors. The group of more than 65 mirrors, which have a combined value of over $14 million, provides a visual history of style from the William and Mary period straight through the Regency era. The mirrors don't simply up the candlepower; they tell of period fashions, fortunes and craftsmanship.
According to Simon Phillips, who heads the firm, the show is the first of its kind in more than 80 years. What makes the examples on view such rarities is that many still retain their original glass and gilding.
Viewers should take in the pair William and Mary mirrors of carved gilt wood, rimmed with red verre glomis (painted glass). Demurely extravagant, they come with an impeccable provenance, as the London textile industrialist John Courtauld, who was celebrated for his vast collection of antiques and Impressionist paintings, had owned them. Another highlight of the show is a pair of Chippendale mirrors which are a towering 10 feet tall and lavishly carved. They had been owned by the Earls of Mexborough and installed in their Gothick fantasy Methley Hall in Yorkshire.
Phillips is renowned for quality and the firm snapped up the most expensive piece of English furniture ever on the market: a pair of Thomas Chippendale chairs for $3.6 million at Christie's London. Designers like Peter Marino, David Easton and Bunny Williams in New York as well as Henrietta Churchill shop there.
Plus, this antiques establishment is participating in Brian and Anna Haughton's International Art and Antiques Dealer Show, which opens with a vernissage at the Seventh Regiment Armory on October 21.
The exhibition catalogue "Reflections of the Past" is a must read for all fanciers of British antiques. Proceeds from the catalogue sales go to the London's Victoria and Albert Museum.
BROOK S. MASON writes on the fine and decorative arts.