These featured beautifully drawn mirrors (or “looking glasses”) to inspire craftsmen and interior designers, and they would spread fashionable French Rococo styles across the country. In 1752, Matthias Lock, a carver working from Tottenham Court Road in London, issued A New Book of Ornaments for Looking Glass Frames, Chimney Pieces, etc.
The year before the publication of the Director, Chippendale had moved his workshops, showroom, himself and his wife (Catherine Redshaw, whom he married in 1748) to St. Martin’s Lane, London, trading at “The Sign of the Chair”.
Of particular interest to us in the Director are seven pages that “are all different designs of Pier-Glass Frames, and other ornaments, which I hope will give satisfaction to those who have them made”.
The years in which Chippendale flourished were under King George III’s long reign from 1760 to 1820, and his Pier mirrors were designed to be used in specific spaces – between windows, for instance. But whatever they are called, it is their undulating frames that are so distinctive, twined about with carvings of curls and scrolls, rocailles, pendant flowers and foliage (acanthus leaves in particular) they were often finished off with a stylised icicle or two – all of which might be surmounted by a cartouche featuring of more of the same.
Today the original glass in these mirrors appears speckled and grey, but still beautiful – glassmaking was a difficult task in this period, and as skilled a profession as wood carving. As the 18th century progressed, England became the largest producer and exporter of looking-glasses in the world, and by the time Chippendale was printing the third edition of his Director book in 1762, the English glassmaking industry was giving Venetian glass a very good run for its money.