Paris was the leading centre for luxury arts in the 19th century, many of which were shown at a series of International Exhibitions [1855, 1867, 1878, 1889, 1900], following the lead of the Great Exhibition in London in 1851. However, French exhibits tended to demonstrate skills in design and quality craftsmanship, rather than industrial mass production, and were much admired by visitors from abroad. This extravagant mirror – more a piece of sculpture than a useful object – was modelled by the great sculptor Albert Ernest Carrier-Belleuse (1824-87), the master of the more famous Auguste Rodin (1840 –1917) [who was in his studio when it was made] and cast by the foundry of Ferdinand Barbedienne (1810-92), whose work was bought by the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. It was shown at the Paris International Exhibition of 1867, where it was sold to the fabulously rich English collector, Wiliam Ward, 1st Earl of Dudley, famous for his collection of paintings, French art and furniture, now sadly dispersed.
It was purchased with the aid of grants from the Victoria and Albert Museum Purchase Fund Grant, the Art Fund, the Friends of The Bowes Museum and the Esmée Fairbairn Charitable Trust in 1992.