Federal Mirror with Scenic Panel of Shrewsbury


As Delivered

These Federal mirrors are often found in New England. Many, like this one, have fine proportions and a very restrained, elegant appearance. They also don't survive all that well, as rough handling can damage the individual areas, break the glass panels in the top section, and in some cases, like this one, suffer from misguided repairs.

The original panel is of unknown design, and along the way, it was replaced with this floral piece which appears to be silk-screened reverse glass. Although attractive in its own right, it is not appropriate for this mirror.

There were also gilt spherules attached to the cornice at one time, as was typical. The filled-in holes from the wires show the original placement. As occasionally happens, it seemed to someone easier to cover them, than repair/replace them. The curved side supports also had composition ornament originall, and like the spherules, someone probably felt it more expedient to remove, rather than repair.

More typical of the issues with these mirrors is the amount of flaking, missing gesso, particularly on the rounded elements. These areas were painted with "radiator paint", and some missing elements replaced with an unkown (to me) clay-like substance.

Still, not a hopeless case.

Bottom rail

In the meantime, I got started making the replacement spherules. I was able to order wooden pieces, then these were coated with layers of gesso.

(I keep them on wooden skewers while they are being worked on)

As was traditional, the gilding on this is burnished "water gilding", so they would gleam brightly.

Gesso on spherules

gilded spherules



As with most repair jobs of this scale, the mirror was disassembled as needed and old repair materials removed. Some of the structure had deteriorated; earlier efforts to hold things together used lots and lots of glue (which still failed). Part of this may have been due to the use of plate glass, instead of the original thin mirror plate. The structure of this mirror simply could not sustain the weight. I will add some new wood to the back of the mirror to stabilize and provide additional support.

Corner damage Old glue  

See the next steps in the restoration of this mirror:

Page 1 | Page 2 | Page 3


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Last Update: 1/15/14