This patriotic American-made mirror has wonderful verticality: the columns bring viewers’ eyes to the top, which features an intricate eagle and the motto E Pluribus Unum, out of many one. Although the painting technique dates back to the pre-Roman period, it is named verre-eglomise after French artisan Jean Baptise Glomy (1711-1786), who revived the process in the mid-18th century. The verre-eglomise technique involved painting the reverse side of glass panels with gilded decoration. The artisan would scratch a design into the gold leaf or polychrome background while keeping the surrounding areas generally in black. Other colors could be painted in like this blue and white border around the eagle.
Baltimore cabinetmakers occasionally included glass panels decorated with this technique in their furniture in the early 19th century. It is possible that Charles Peale Polk, nephew of Charles Willson Peale, learned this technique during his time in Baltimore. While no other member of the Peale family produced similar pieces, his uncle Charles Willson Peale was impressed with his nephew’s pieces and encouraged his own son Raphaelle to try the process.
This mirror was owned by Frances and Richard Loockerman, who moved into Hammond-Harwood House in 1811, and it descended in the family to their granddaughter Hester Ann Harwood. When she died in 1925, the mirror was sold at the estate auction. After the sale, the mirror was purchased by Philip Miller, a former renter at the Hammond-Harwood House. Miller was a Jewish immigrant who had been born in Russia in 1879. Like other immigrants at that time, he likely changed his name upon arrival in America, as Miller is not a typical Russian surname.
Miller began renting a wing of the Hammond-Harwood House in 1910 from Hester Ann Harwood. At the time he was a thirty-one year old bachelor who ran a men’s clothing store catering to the Navy at 34 Market Space in Annapolis. He later married a woman named Selda and they had three daughters. His enterprise grew, and he owned a commercial building from 1919 to 1948 at 63 Maryland Avenue, where he rented out the space for a jewelry store, tailors shop, and later the Little Campus Inn. This building is now Galway Bay Irish Pub. He lived at 88 State Circle and was active politically in the House of Delegates in the 1920s and 30s. Miller was also the owner of Republic Theatre, which played motion pictures. Located at 187 Main Street, it opened in 1915 but the building has been demolished.
His daughter Eugenia, an author and artist, donated the mirror to the Hammond-Harwood House in 1980. It now hangs in the North East Bedchamber with a plaque honoring Mr. and Mrs. Philip Miller.
American, c. 1790
Medium: Wood, Gilt, and Glass
Original to Hammond-Harwood House
F175 Donated by Mrs. Eugenia Miller Mandelkorn in 1980
By Rachel Lovett Curator & Assistant Director