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Mirror Mirror on the Wall…

If you know what’s good for you, you’ll tell me what I want to hear when I ask who’s the fairest one of all! Today is all about mirrors. I love a house mirror and seem to be collecting them now. We have an awesome (and heavy) antique mirror rescued from my parents’ neighbor.

You’ve seen the ornate Syroco number I found my favorite NYC thrift store, Pippin Vintage, hanging in the hall of our former apartment in NYC. We inherited a lovely (and enormous!) mirror from my Grandmother last year that hangs proudly in our current dining area.And on a recent trip to visit the extended family in East Texas, we scored a smaller version of “the one that got away;” a vintage reproduction Federalist convex mirror.

More than a year ago, I spotted a similar mirror in the aforementioned Pippin in New York. Not only was it was larger, made of carved wood and gilded, it was in great shape and therefore fetched something in the $200 range (specimens in like-new condition, found on such sites as 1st Dibs, often yield much higher prices). I pondered it for a while, I brought Oliver in to ponder it with me, and one day, on yet another pondering trip, it was gone. Cest la vie; it wasn’t meant to be just yet (and we couldn’t really afford to spend the money on it, either). So, on this recent jaunt to the thrift stores of Mineola, when I spotted a similar mirror for a mere $19, I grabbed it and walked around the store holding it, lest I lost my chance again. Seriously, I did that.

Our new mirror was priced so low in part because it is made of Syroco (essentially molded, painted resin by the Syracuse Ornamental Company). I would love a wooden version someday, but my current budget only allows for plastic, so there you have it! In the 1950s, Syroco made it possible to reproduce heavily carved accessories for a fraction of the price, churning out tons of designs originally made of wood.

The mirrors are also known as “bullseye”, mirrors, especially when the glass is convex. The design usually consists of a mirror surrounded by thirteen “balls,” meant to represent the thirteen original states of the union (ours has this). They also lend the mirror a nautical feel, reminiscent of portholes on ships. Another name for the style is “Girandole,” which refers to the candle arms (called girandoles) attached to some in order to reflect light into a room. The convex mirror design did a great deal to illuminate an entire room before electric light was common. They come in all shapes and sizes (well, I suppose they’re mostly the same shape…), as can be seen in this great roundup of offerings from The Federalist, and here, from Richard Rothstein.

It now hangs proudly on Oliver’s closet door, accompanying the Pippin find, which hangs on my closet door. I’m always shifting things around, so this may not be the permanent home (I might want to display it more prominently at some point), but it works for now!

Heavily influenced by the Empire style in France, but especially classical Greece and Rome, America’s early Federalist style flourished between 1785 and 18 when the Federalist Party ran the country and nationalism soared as America established herself. Neoclassical influences such as straight lines, simple ornament, and lightness for ease of transport. Classical figures, urns, eagles, masks embellished delicate furnishings and accessories. The late Federalist style (1810-1830) saw many of the same embellishments, but in heavier forms and more ornamentation.

I’m thrilled to own a little bit of American history – and I’m certainly not alone!