The radiant and celestial style of the sunburst mirror. Indeed, an iconic mirror gracing the walls of any interior, its widespread appeal brings with it an interesting history and past…
Traditionally, the “sunburst” mirror was attributed to King Louis XIV of France, who history refers to as the self-styled “Sun King”. King Louis XIV chose the “Sun” as his iconic emblem, due to his intense love of the sun and its powerful rays. The emblem itself was a head of Apollo surrounded by rays of light. Perhaps it was the King himself that popularized the sunburst emblem into fashion. Interestingly, and perhaps further evidence that King Louis XIV indeed, had a part in the sunburst mirror’s arrival, history states that during the 17th Century, paired with his affinity for mirrors, he established the first glass and mirror factory in Northern Europe at St. Gobain, France. In addition, he apparently halted the Venetian Republic’s monopoly and raised the “aesthetic and technological bar” by forming larger and more clear mirrors. Alas, the gilded Chateau de Versailles and the infamous “Hall Of Mirrors”….Is this where the Sunburst mirror arose into fashion? The true origin of the sunburst mirror is somewhat unclear and it is also said that it did not make an appearance during King Louis XIV reign. What is clear is that the mirror has been around, enhancing interiors, for centuries.
Another interesting aspect of these striking rays of reflection is the belief that the sunburst mirrors are the result of antique dealers and collectors repurposing the multitude of religious icons that overflowed into the market after the 1789-1799 French Revolution. Perhaps it is best stated by Manhattan antiques dealer, Louis Bofferding: “The revolutionaries stormed, shuttered, even destroyed monasteries, convents and churches. Among the loot of the rabble were the gilded aureoles of celestial rays that had haoled representations of the Holy Family and saints on altars. It did not take long for enterprising antiques dealers and collectors to buy those vacant sunbursts for a song, slip mirrors into the cavities and launch what would become a vouge in the 20th century”. So, perhaps it was merely the removal of the round portraits and images of the Holy Family and saints from their metal frames, that the sunburst mirror, an iconic interior statement of a celestial realm, was formed. Who knew? Repurposed and Re-used, the beginning of a design trend itself! Over 200 years later, the sunburst mirror still provides an unexpected “pop” to wherever it’s rays of gilded wood or metal grace. Decoration and art at its best.
However the sunburst exploded into the world of interior design, it was during the 1940’s that this iconic ray of light reached a pinnacle. The Hollywood Regency period. A perfect opportunity for the gilded majesty of the sunburst mirror to make a grand entrance, indeed. High-end auction houses are said to have obtained overwhelming bids for these vintage wall jewels. During the 1940’s, the great French metalworker, Gilbert Poillerat (1902-1988) forged and gilded sunburst mirrors that attracted the likes of the cafe society. His work was thought of as “calligraphic” in style and often his wrought iron was gilded. With an Art-Deco edge, Poillerat used elements in nature to work with, such as the sunburst. Truly, Poillerat’s mirrors are an icon unto themselves and he himself emerged as one of the most original and important designers of his time.
Not long after Poillerat’s stunning mirrors enamored the market, Parisian artisan Line Vautrin(1913-1997) used a new innovational material-plastic, and materials she sourced at the hardware store! Who knew? Also iconic and truly unique, Vautrin named the new plastic material “Talosel”, which was cellulose acetate. A jewelry designer from the beginning, Vautrin expanded her artisan skills with the use of metals and began crafting sunburst styled mirrors. The value of these mirrors were not attributed to the materials, but rather, to her ideas. It is said that Vautrin was inspired by the art of ancient Greece,Byzantium, Medieval and Renaissance art, natural forms and mythology. Her skill in designing these pieces, paired with her atelier full of skilled artisans that helped bring her vision into reality, resulted in unusual shapes and ornamentations that are regarded as almost primative, medieval-like objects. Unique and individualistic, indeed.
Consider adding the glory and radiance of the sunburst mirror to grace the walls of the interior. The variety and materials of these mirrors available today is limitless. To obtain a vintage, timeless sunburst mirror? Priceless. The sunburst mirror is an investment that will add luminosity and heavenly ornamentation to your walls for years to come. Whether gilded in gold, mirrored in style, or flared with a modern spin, the sunburst mirror is a classic that will always remain timeless.