Pair of English Blue, Red and Gilt-Engraved Glass 'Venetian' Mirrors attributed to F. & C. Osler
Probably made for the Indian Market, each bevelled rectangular mirror plate within blue glass borders with red glass studs, the shaped crest with scrolls centered by an oval panel with the motto HONNI [sic] SOIT QUI MAL Y PENSE, the apron with scrolls joined by a fan. Height 6 feet 6 3/4 inches (200 cm), width 55 1/8 inches (140 cm).
Carlton Hobbs LLC, New York.
Acquired from the above, May 7, 2008.
In order to supply luxury items to the burgeoning Indian market under the British Raj in the 19th century, western firms established offices in India, amongst them the glass makers F. & C. Osler and Baccarat. Osler, founded in Birmingham in 1807, opened a showroom in Calcutta in 1844 and 'captured the Indian market, including printing catalogues with prices in rupees and producing Indian forms in glass such as hookah bases, chauri holders and punkah (fan)'; eds., Anna Jackson and Amin Jaffer, Maharaja The Splendour of India's Royal Courts, V&A Publishing, 2010, pp. 218-219.
Osler was granted the Royal warrant as 'Glass Manufacturers To Their Majesties The Queen Empress [the title proclaimed by Benjamin Disraeli on January 1, 1877] and The King of Italy and to H. E. The Viceroy of India'. The F. & C. Osler Calcutta catalogue of 1877-1885 shows several examples of 'Venetian' mirrors. No. 0861, illustrated below, describes a mirror with similar characteristics to the present lot: 'The frame work entirely of Mirror, very handsomely cut and Engraved, Blue Glass very effectively intermingled with Crystal Glass, the centre plate bevelled, of first quality. Note - This Mirror is also made with Red instead of blue Ornamentation at the same price. Rs. 425.' Calculated from rupees to pounds sterling in 1876, the price was £8,389.5, an exhorbitant amount for both Indians and Westerners.
Almost certainly commissioned privately, these mirrors share a similar scrolled cresting centered by an oval plaque with the design illustrated below. The mirrors' oval plaque is engraved with a variation of the Order of the Garter, whose motto has been misspelled: HONNI [sic] SOIT QUI MAL Y PENSE. This is a curious error for such an expensive order and could possibly be explained by the strict rules involving use of the Royal coat of arms. Unless the mirrors had been commissioned by the Royal family, the government or one of the other legal entities that use the official arms, an individual could not use the arms. By adapting the use of three of the four symbols of the countries of Great Britian, the impression is given that this is the official Royal coat of arms and that, together with the possible misspelling of HONNI, could have been intentional, thus skirting the law.
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