Cheval Mirrors: Standing Alone, I Reflect

Cheval mirrors were first introduced around the latter part of the 18th Century, and were also known as psyche mirrors or horse dressing glasses. Their basic design comprises a rectangular, oval or elliptical mirror mounted on support structures on either side, and a swivel mechanism in the middle to change the angle of the glass, and a pulley or 'horse' to adjust the height. In the 19th century they became very popular, and several designs started appearing for use in toilets and dressing rooms across Europe. Thomas Sheraton, the famous cabinet maker who gave his name to a unique style of furniture was also responsible for several masterpieces based on the cheval design which are probably worth a lot of money these days. He also popularized the oval designs of the cheval mirror, which until then used to be mostly rectangular in shape. Over a period of time, cheval mirrors were gradually incorporated into wardrobe designs, with drawers, shelves and cabinets added for convenience. The functionality of these hybrid designs were so effective that cheval glass was soon edged out of the glory it enjoyed at the end of the 18th century. It is possible that the predecessors of current day dressing table mirrors with a swivel mechanism are the original cheval glass of the 18th century. Still, they persisted and maintained their position as unique creations that were often specially commissioned from top furniture makers of the time. Although the cheval mirror has lost its former position of honor as a standard toilet mirror, it continues to be popular among antique dealers, and can range in price from about $1000 to $5000 for 18th century and later pieces.

Cheval Mirrors: Design And Utility

You don't normally see cheval mirrors being used today – most of the mirrors you do see are usually antique heirlooms that are passed down from one generation to the next. The reign of Napoleon I saw the peak of extravagance in terms of cheval styles and designs. There were gilt-bronze mounted ones with intricate relief work, with the plates arched and supported with classic columns. One of the reasons that these ornate mirrors aren't very popular could be the fact that they're cumbersome to have around the house – they have large footprints and so take up a lot of valuable room space. Besides, with full length wall mirrors being inexpensive, they're not practical. However, for décor purposes they are perfect, lending a touch of European nobility to your boudoir. However, cheval mirrors are coming back into fashion as better, more durable and lighter materials drive down cost and weight. You could probably find a simple cheval glass for about $100 if you wanted, or spend up to $5000 for an oval cheval mirror designed by Charles Shackleton. Most models today are restrained in their extravagance; possibly because a piece with extremely intricate designs will only suit an 18th century bedroom.

Cheval Mirrors: Modern-Day Miniatures

More popular with today's cosmetics-conscious are the table top cheval mirrors. These are often two-sided, with one being plain flat glass and the other being concave. The concave side can provide the kind of image magnification that makes it perfect for shaving, applying make-up or plucking your brows – and kids find them great funny-face makers. You'll see them in most beauty and styling salons as they provide a close-up view of whatever you're looking at. Even opticians have them on their counters so you can see how you look in new frames. There are variations of this design as well: side or back-lit mirrors, those with ambient lighting, and if you look hard enough, you'll probably find that they're busy embedding mp3 players into the sides of table top cheval mirrors somewhere in the far east.