Antique mirrors tend to be on the large side. The Victorians especially liked their mirrors big, heavy and very definitely not an item to go unnoticed. Because of the sheer weight of some of the larger mirrors they had, walls could not easily support them. The answer was standing mirrors, stand-alone items that could occupy a corner of a bedroom, for example.
Mirrors have been imbued with magical properties in the minds of people from an early time. It’s no accident that Lewis Carroll wrote, Through The Looking Glass, and What Alice Found There as a sequel to his original literary work, published in 1865, as it is a kind of mirror to the Wonderland that his main character encountered. The story contains many themes drawn on mirrors, all in a magical kind of way.
An actual magic mirror is featured in the famous old folk tale, given a new lease of life by the Grim Brothers in the early 19th century, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. The mirror in this story is a wall mirror that tells the wicked queen who the fairest in the land is, and does so with an honesty that doesn’t always please the queen.
Mirrors are said to be capable of stealing souls, according to superstition. It is through this ancient belief that we get the concept of seven years of bad luck, should we be unfortunate enough to break a mirror. It was believed that a mirror in use contained the soul, so breaking it caused great damage that took time to mend, seven years, in fact.
By the 16th century, belief in the magical properties of mirrors had largely waned, and it was around this time that glass blowing techniques revolutionized mirror production. Antique mirrors from this period are greatly prized as glass was so expensive. This is why the frames used on 16th and even 17th century mirrors are often extremely elaborate and made with gold, silver and even jewels in many cases.
A typical Victorian standing mirror is a very beautiful piece that rightly commands a high price. The mirror is usually rectangular in shape and used upright. It often has a rounded top to make it more aesthetically pleasing. The frame is usually simple polished mahogany, as is the two mahogany columns with turned finials on top. The columns hold the mirror and allow it to pivot. The mahogany base is large and solid in a flowing kind of classical design. These kinds of antique mirrors are highly sought after.