Treasures: Rococo-Style Mirror is a Fine Piece

Mirrors made by the LeBarge Furniture Company are considered to be the finest in the world.

Mirrors made by the LeBarge Furniture Company are considered to be the finest in the world.

Dear Helaine and Joe:

I have had a large wooden LaBarge mirror for about 25 years. My wife bought it and I would like to know the value if I were to sell it. Picture enclosed.

Thank you,

R.N.E.

Dear R.N.E.:

When we opened the envelope with this question, the first thing we noticed was the image of the large gilded mirror. It was in a rococo style that originated in the mid-18th century, and we were very excited to see such a fine piece.

But then, we read the accompanying letter and found that while it was of great quality and by a famous maker, it was relatively recent — no older than the 1980s, and it was probably new or nearly so when it was purchased in the 1990s.

Does that mean the mirror is valueless on today’s resale market? No, it does not, but a sale of such an item can be less than the owner might imagine and may take a long time to find a new owner unless the piece is sent to auction.

Rococo as a style of furniture originated in France in the 18th century and is derived from the French word “rocaille,” which means “rock-work.” The term was originally used to describe the grottos and fountains located in the gardens at the Palace of Versailles.

This style is associated with furniture (among other things) made during the reign of French King Louis XV. By the mid-18th century, the style had reached England and it greatly influenced the work of Thomas Chippendale, among others. The design elements were meant to be naturalistic and depicted such things as rocks, shells, fruit, flowers and birds, along with ribbons, scrolls and acanthus leaves.

The mirror in today’s question looks like it is decorated with a flower basket inside a shell-type ornament at the crest with flower garlands, leaves and such cascading down the sides. It is very beautiful, but it may be a little out of fashion in today’s world, except in certain traditionally oriented markets.

Pierre La Barge III sought to expand his St. Louis-based LaBerge Pipe and Steel Company, so he began buying his customer’s companies, particularly in electronic, aerospace and medical fields. One of the firms he acquired was Omni Duralite, which specialized in making tubular steel furniture that was designed to stand up to the elements.

Using Omni Duralite as its base, LaBarge Furniture began making fine mirrors (some say they are the “finest in the world”) and small pieces of mirrored furniture. They reportedly used the finest materials and the best craftsmen to produce their products, but in 1886, the company was sold to the Heritage Home Group.

As for the monetary value of this piece, we see similar mirrors being offered on the internet in the $1,400 to $1,600 range, but we have seen a few priced much higher. How much R.N.E. can get for this piece depends on how and where he sells it, and we recommend he choose a reputable high-end auction company in his area.

View the article online on the Santa Maria Times. 

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