Through the Cheval Glass: Objects from Boscobel’s Collection

Cheval glass mirror; photo courtesy of Boscobel

How curators go about the process of attribution is underlying theme of exhibition

In addition to Shakespeare, the Garrison Art Center sculptures, the Cold Spring Farmers’ Market and a variety of other special events on its calendar this year, Boscobel is presenting a unique, specialized house tour this summer with focus on its virtual showcase of furniture from renowned New York cabinetmaker Duncan Phyfe.

House tours through Sept. 10 will conclude in the gallery with a limited-time exhibition curated by Judith A. Pavelock. On display will be Boscobel’s own cheval glass — a “looking glass” which has reflected images as far back as 1820 — as well as a similar piece on loan from the Columbia County Historical Society, and other related objects hand-picked from Boscobel’s collection, all to be showcased for an up-close and intimate inspection. Mirrors have a universal appeal, and this exhibition offers the chance to see an extraordinary piece of furniture – considered a chic, newfangled item in the 1800s – standing separately and spotlighted. Pavelock says:

This behind-the-scenes exhibition is a rare opportunity to see select objects from Boscobel’s collection apart from our richly decorated period rooms and to see how we determine who made the cheval glass, even though it is not labeled and we do not know the history of its ownership.

The invention of the cheval glass, a type of tall dressing glass with a trestle base, was dependent upon technological improvements in glass making during the 16th century and the hundreds of 19th century journeymen and cabinetmakers who were inspired by designs they brought to New York City during a time when the economy was resilient, robust and competitive.  In 1991, a cheval glass was donated to Boscobel without a maker’s label or history of ownership.  It was attributed to the famous French émigré cabinetmaker of New York, Charles-Honoré Lannuier (1779-1819).

This unique exhibition explores the origins and use of this specialized furniture form and how curators go about the process of attributing furniture to specific makers. Who made these looking glasses? Could the renowned New York master cabinetmaker Duncan Phyfe have been involved in the production of any of these examples? Can the attribution to the famous Lannuier be sustained?

Boscobel visitors will have the opportunity to reflect upon these thoughts and more during the exhibit, at no additional charge as part of their paid house tour admission now through Sept. 10, 2012. For more information, visit the Boscobel website or call 845-265-3638.

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