Mid 18th Century Rococo Giltwood Mirror attributed to Johann August Nahl


the rectangular mercury-silvered plate contained within a frame of bold rococo scrolls and foliate swags in the manner of Johann August Nahl

Height 82 cm (32.25 inches)
Width 43 cm (17 inches)
Prussia. Circa 1750

The richly carved frame with its C-scrolls and rocaille clasps compares to the designs of sculptor Johann August Nahl (1710-1785). Nahl arrived in Berlin after his travel in France and Italy in 1740. At that time Frederick the Great decided to redecorate his existing palaces and in some instances build new palaces in Berlin and Potsdam – including Schloss Berlin, Monbijou, Charlottenburg and Sanssouci. Nahl was named Directeur des Ornements, he was a designer, but with his background as sculptor he was also responsible for the stucco, the carved panelling and the furniture. A design by Nahl for the Bronzesaal of the castle in Potsdam of 1740-1746 which depicts wall panelling with mirrors and console table, reflects the ornamental vocabulary of this mirror.
H. Kreisel, Die Kunst des deutschen Möbels, vol.II, München, 1970, fig. 716.
Others mirrors with comparable C-scroll carving and winged dragons are illustrated in H. Kreisel, Die Kunst des deutschen Möbels, vol.II, München, 1970, fig. 718-719.

Soon after Frederick the Great’s (1712-1786) accession to the Prussian throne, he appointed Georg Wenceslau von Knobbelsdorf as Surintendant of his palaces and under the latter’s influence the so-called “Frederican Rokoko” evolved, characterised by bold contrasting curves . The most famous craftsman working under Knobbelsdorf was Johann August Nahl (1710-1781), who was invited to Berlin by the surintendant and appointed Directeur des Ornements in 1741. He worked closely with Johann Michael Hoppenhaupt and his brother, Johann Christian, who had both also been invited to Berlin by von Knobblesdorf, and Nahl’s greatest achievement was the Golden Gallery at Charlottenburg, a tour de force of rococo carving. The hand of Nahl can be most closely seen in the present mirror by comparing how close the carving and design is to the mirror carved by Nahl for Schloss Fasanerie bei Fulda, here illustrated.  The richly carved frame of rocailles and C-scrolls and sinuous outline of this mirror also relates to the work of the celebrated rococo designer Johann Michael Hoppenhaupt II (1709- circa 1755) who, in 1746, was made Directeur des ornements at Potsdam by Frederick the Great. Hoppenhaupt’s style developed under the influence of Johann August Nahl and they  worked together on numerous occasions, including the decoration of the concert hall at Sanssouci, designed by Nahl and carried out by Hoppenhaupt circa 1746-’47. Hoppenhaupt’s designs were typical of the Friederizianische Rokoko pioneered von Knobbelsdorf and realised Nahl working in conjunction with Johann Michael Hoppenhaupt (1709-1769) and his brother Johann Christian Hoppenhaupt (1719 – 1786) under King Frederick II of Prussia (1740 – 1786). Johann Michael Hoppenhaupt designed lavish rococo interiors for Frederick the Great at Potsdam, such as the Music Room in Schloss Sanssouci and other work at the Stadtschloss, before retiring from the royal service in 1750.The bold a-symmetric ornament, and exaggerated organic lines, especially to the cresting are characteristic of the style. Supplying seat-furniture and wall furnishings such as mirrors and console tables for Schloss Charlottenburg, Neues Palais, Schloss Sanssousi and other castles of the Friderizianische Rokoko, their designs are well-known and well documented.

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