Mirror, Mirror on the Wall

Am I sure about this?

Absolutely…not.  But am I going to do it?  Yes, I am.

So – I have this ridiculously ornate, gold mirror I have been using for many years now.  I have used it in an early 1920s Craftsman, an 1800s Victorian, a 1970s split-level and most recently here, in the “sanctuary.”  It has been flanked by barn art (I have a thing for barns), Victorian paintings and in this house, I just went for it and surrounded it with religious iconic paintings in more gaudy, gold, Italian-made, ornate frames.

I can tell you everything about when I got it.

That is weird, right?  But it was the week of the earthquake during the World Series between the Oakland A’s and the San Francisco Giants in October of 1989.

We had a house guest and he wanted to go looking through junk stores one day in Norfolk, NE.  There was a really odd one with tons of space and hardly anything in there that called themselves a tool store.  All I know is I bought 5000 lace, paper doilies for $5, a Hymnal published in 1910 for $1.25 and 2 old-old, heavy, well-made frames (the small one was $2.00).  But this?  This gold one is the piece-de-resistance from that day.  Measuring in at 4′ x 4′, it was a steal for only $5!

It is wood construction with carved wood details, and is actually three separate frames layered into one.  Trying not to be too technical, but we used to own a frame shop, so I can’t help it.   If you brought in a good piece of art and wanted something done in museum-quality, you would pay by the foot for each of the parts.  Each!  There is the outer frame, an inner liner that is velvet-wrapped (a framing detail rarely used these days and quite costly), and inside that, a thin gold-washed liner.

The outer frame is an over-the-top, heavily-ornamented, Italian Baroque.  It is gold-leafed to the max, REAL gold-leaf.  You can find, if you search, where the leaves of gold came together here and there, but it was done well, not spray-painted by a machine like most frames today.  I couldn’t even afford that much gold leaf, if I wanted to do a project this big, now.

The dark parts you see in the carvings are where the wood, once carved, was stained a deep, dark mahogany.  The leafing was on top.  It wasn’t washed in later, as is common now.

I hauled it home, ordered a mirror insert, and voila.  At every single house, Dave has cringed wondering whether the wall would be able to hold it, but it isn’t as heavy as it looks and every wall has been up to the challenge.

Authentic, old-world beauty

It was considered junk when I nabbed it in 1989.  And not everyone could appreciate the style, for sure (I love Italian ornate), but there is one thing it has always been, all these 24 years of it’s time with me: authentic.

It really was from the 1960s, really Italian, really wood, carved-wood, gold-leafed Baroque, not some imitation of those (many of which are done nicely, but…).  A real beauty.  Aging, certainly, but true to its’ intent.


Now it is going to get a face-lift.  I am painting it white – even the velvet.  My daughters are egging me on. It will hang on a charcoal-colored wall.

I seriously doubt if this new look will have the stamina to last 24 more years.  Much like an aging Hollywood beauty, once the face-lifts begin, more will have to follow, I am certain.

I know about furniture facelifts’ short life-spans because in our early marriage, in the 1980s when wood was so vogue, we spent much time and effort stripping all the antiquing and painting people had done in the late 1970s and thought: “What were they thinking, painting this beautiful wood furniture this color???”

And with all the painting going on these days – I hold my breath…because this mirror?  Is never going back to its’ authentic, real state again.  Much like Kenny Roger’s big round eyes which will never crinkle in warm smile lines like they once did, when I make this step, this is a white frame.  It can’t go back.

Most people will see it next to the Home Interiors framed mirror or the Ung Drill I just got from IKEA and assume it is like those: fake, but fun versions of something from another continent.  It will be sort of like having a Kim Kardashian next to an Elizabeth Taylor.  Maybe Kim is beautiful, but it is hard to really tell and we never got to see her before every possible augmentation.  But no one will ever doubt Elizabeth was drop-dead, breathtakingly beautiful, and real.

I will know my frame was beautiful all along.

It is going to look fabulous.  It will be totally dramatic.  I need a big change for fun (bye-bye, Under the Tuscan Sun house), but these changes cannot be undone.  Ready or not….

I know.  I am so silly, huh?


3 thoughts on “Mirror, Mirror on the Wall

  1. I am suddenly sad to see something that has existed the majority of my life changing so drastically. GREAT references to Kim and Elizabeth. Ha!

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