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An 18th Century Anglo-Dutch Tortoiseshell and Ebony Mirror
England, circa 1720

A very fine 18th century Anglo-Dutch tortoiseshell and ebony mirror in the Baroque style. The mirror with a rectangular frame veneered in stained red tortoiseshell between ripple-moulded bands of ebony.

Tortoiseshell has been a popular material in the decorative arts since antiquity with Greek lyres often using an entire shell to form the body. Inlaid veneers of tortoiseshell were used on Roman furniture. In 17th century Paris, André Charles Boulle popularized the use of tortoiseshell veneers in combination with brass or silver, which became known as boulle work. Tortoiseshell has a semi-transparent quality, and Boulle often stained the tortoiseshell in different colours, most commonly in red, to enhance the material’s appearance.


In England, tortoiseshell appeared in homes as early as the 17th century with the Earl of Cork commenting on the purchase of ‘a cabonett of Torties Shell’ [sic] in 1632. The Duchess of Lauderdale’s bedroom at Ham House featured two large mirrors framed in tortoiseshell in 1679. The fashion for tortoiseshell continued into the 18th century with Dampier writing in his 1703 Voyages that ‘The Hawksbill-Turtle of Brazil is the most sought after… for its shell.’

Height 112.00cm (44.09 inches)
Width 93.00cm (36.61 inches)


Reference - N04.92