20 December 2010

Get Inspired: Trumeau Mirrors

A trumeau mirror updated with a graphic nineteenth-century botanical depiction of a cactus.

I have never been fond of trumeau mirrors, whether trumeau de glace, trumeau de cheminée, or trumeau whatever. Perhaps I've just seen too many second-rate examples of these tall, thin looking glasses, where the upper panel is filled with an indifferent painting depicting mincing courtiers or twee arrangements of flowers and usually displayed in a saccharine French-style room.

Yesterday, however, I was at a friend's house in Cooperstown, New York, and remembered she owns a pair of matching trumeau mirrors and has jazzed up their tasseled Louis XVI formality with gritty botanical prints depicting tropical plants. So out came my iPhone and I started clicking. One trumeau contains an image of a wonderfully spiky cactus; the other, which hangs in a spare room over a chest of drawers, displays a portrait of a bunch of unripe bananas, as if the stalk had been hacked from a tree with a machete mere moments before. The gutsy works of art add an unexpected south-of-the-border swagger to the elegant green-and-gold frames. One could easily imagine them hanging in a mansion in Mexico City or in the salon of a ranch on the Argentine pampas.

My friend's departure from the trumeau norm gave me an idea that I might pursue, if I ever come across a trumeau that's attractive enough and cheap enough to seduce me. Why not fill the upper section with a mod watercolor, an abstract oil painting, a graphic map, a striking photograph, a Matisse-style collage made by your child, even a fascinating scrap of exotic fabric? After all a trumeau is just a frame with a reflective section below. So why not be creative with what you put in it?

Inspired, I took an online spin through the engrossing website of The Old Print Shop in New York City and found a few interesting possibilities, such as a fantastically fiery Currier & Ives print of the flaming wreck of steamboat Lexington in 1840 and a bold 2001 abstract woodcut by Su-Li Hung.

The trumeau hanging in a friend's spare room is fitted with a botanical image of a bunch of bananas.


The Down East Dilettante said...

I've owned a few really beautiful (and not too skinny) trumeaus in my time, so I can't share your disaffection for them---some have been startlingly lovely (obviously, we are not talking about some horrid gilded age wannabe here, but something lovely and eighteenth century with worn gilt..

However, your friend's use of the prints is just terrific.

Quatorze said...

One could even place numerous family documents, such as old birth certificates, etc., randomly placed at angles, with an old photo or two into the trumeau's pictorial area; antique sheet music, the list is endless. Even skinn trumeaux look good if the carving is good, and they are set against a strong background such as gloss midnight blue walls, setting the worn gilding off to great effect.

My Dog-Eared Pages said...

I love the south-of-the-border swagger!

jones said...

I LOVE 18th/early 19th c. trumeau with their patinated gilt and painted surfaces. But I agree that "bad" art contained in the upper section diminishes the trumeau. Your friend's pieces are wonderful-the rope and tassel carving are unusual and beautiful.

Penelope Bianchi said...

Brilliant post!
There had to be a price to pay! I am proud to pay it!

I was so, so , so proud of the pair of trumeaus I found in New Orleans when we were building our house with two fireplaces in the "big hall"! I was so proud that it was a pair with two different paintings in the top.......and was a pair....and he said yes....and I love them.......however.............

Just shows what genius does.......who cares what is on the top?

Fill it in! genius!

Love that!

Love you and welcome back! Good grief! we have so much to learn!!!