An Important Rococo Giltwood Wall Mirror, Carved with Fable of “The Fox and the Grapes” In The Manner of Thomas Johnson, Possibly Philadelphia, Circa 1760.
This expertly carved and gilded mirror represents the best of the rococo aesthetic. It was produced in England or America, possibly Philadelphia. It is decorated with a variety of exuberant scrolls, icicles, vines and figural motifs, which survive intact. The central cresting is carved in perspective with an Aesop’s fables themed tableau of “The Fox and the Grapes”. These designs are found on furniture and interiors in both Europe and America following the period of the enlightenment. Popular morals and lessons from the Classical period were commonly incorporated into decorations.
This composition is likely borrowed from a design publication “One Hundred and Fifty New Designs”, published by London carver, Thomas Johnson in 1758. These styles were introduced to America and there are several well-known examples of Aesop’s fables carvings on Philadelphia furniture and interiors. Most compelling is the Howe family high chest and matching dressing table at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. This suite features the same motif as carved drawer appliques which are attributed to Martin Jugiez , please see attached. Another notable example is a mantle surround carved by Hercules Courtenay for the Powel house, which features the fable of “The Dog and His Shadow”. Courtenay trained in Ireland with Thomas Johnson and brought his skills to America when he emigrated to Philadelphia in 1762.
The tale of “The Fox and the Grapes”, tells of a proud fox who, when unable to reach a bunch of grapes, proclaims them to be sour and undesirable. The allegory delivers the moral that one should be humble and happy with what they have and not suffer the ills of greed and pride. This symbolism represented on such an opulent item creates greater irony and further emphasis for to the owner of such privilege.
Dimensions: Height 57" Width 32"
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