Discovering antique mercury mirrors

The Vincent Guerre Gallery is first and foremost home to an impressive collection of antique mercury mirrors. It is a unique stock, built up by someone who is passionate about his work and is the only mirror manufacturer in the world to work with this type of mirror, a type of mirror that is becoming increasingly rare.

The creation of antique mercury mirrors, with their magnificent, blue-tinged sparkle, was actually banned in 1850 as their manufacturing process was too toxic for craftsmen (mercury was then used hot to secure the glass).

Vincent Guerre therefore started out on his quest for antique mercury mirrors, which are easy to recognise thanks to their silver backs, their warm highlights and their particles of tin that capture the light in an inimitable way, but which are very difficult to restore without the suitable materials.

The mirror maker with his extensive background as an antiques dealer did not hesitate to look for and use raw materials dating back to before 1850 and has invented real skills which he alone now masters.

Contrary to what we might think, the restoration of an antique mirror doesn't just involve repairing its glass (which would be impossibel as mercury is prohibited), but in covering over the disparities in the mercury and the marks of time. It involves making these alterations acceptable in aesthetic terms and giving back the mirror its shine and uniformity.

When faced with a warped, inadequate or broken mirror, Vincent Guerre's approach is close to a historical reconstitution. In fact, the mirror maker takes his time over the way in which the glass has been conserved and how it has aged in order to give it the exact care it needs. It is vital not to change the character of the object, its authenticity or its sincerity.

In additin to cleaning and "smoothing over" any faults, restoration involves cutting the antique mirror to the dimensions required by the customers. Traditional two-thirds fittings on wood and gold leaf wood, flooring and doors and modern creations based on old materials are also possible.

If the restoration project concerns a large antique mercury mirror its removal, unhooking and reassembly will be carried out by Vincent Guerre and his team under the best possible conditions. Harmony and consistency with the decoration of the room that hosts the mirror to be restored are also respected.

Revolutionary restoration

The restoration of the Hall of Mirrors at the Palace of Versailles is without doubt Vincent Guerre's finest and most impressive project.

Over a three year period, the mirror maker restored 357 antique mirrors representing a surface area of 233m². While 70% of the mirrors were original, 48 of them, from Vincent Guerre's own stock had to be changed.

But the relationship between the craftsman and the Palace of Versailles did not stop there since Vincent Guerre recently provided his support to the reconstruction of Louis XIV's private quarters for an exhibition entitled "The Man and the King".

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