Ireland has an incredibly rich history of the glass making tradition which began to flourish within the 17th Century and during the course of the 18th Century, the world would see Ireland firmly positioned as a leading centre for the highly skilled production of glass. In 1780, the government granted Ireland free trade in glass without taxation, this coupled with the establishment of the Waterford Glasshouse in 1783 by George and William Penrose and their practice of a new method of glassmaking, flint glass manufacture lead Ireland directly to the ‘Golden Age of Irish Glass’.
The ‘Waterford Irish Mirror’ is perhaps one of the rarest examples of Irish Waterford glass dating from the 18th and 19th Centuries. The essential character of the mirrors lies within the formation of the frames constructed of rectangular, faceted glass, the ‘jewels’ are silver lined on the reverse and laid side-by-side. Outlining the frame and holding the ‘jewels’ in place is a continuous copper bezel, the dark blue ‘jewels’ are normally arranged to alternate with clear lead glass or white opal, the latter sometimes grooved on the back, these groves or flutes are then gilded, the rarity of the Irish Waterford mirror has led to its inclusion in the canon of Irish glassmaking.
Irish Waterford mirrors were often commissioned specifically, in conjunction with a small chandelier hanging to the front in the Neoclassical taste. This alluring invention was perhaps evolved in order to maximise the reflection of light with a view to doubling the light source, the mirrors would also assist in reflecting the light from a centrally hung chandelier.
This rare pair of 18th Century Irish mirrors were perhaps situated at either end of a great Neoclassical room balancing the interior whilst reflecting the light from a centrally hung chandelier. It has been documented that in the 18th Century, Irish Waterford chandeliers were in situ in many impressive examples of Irish architecture such as the Powerscourt Townhouse, the National Museum of Ireland, Capoquin House, Waterford, the Houses of Parliament on College Green and the Bishops Palace in Waterford.