John & Rico's Antique American and European Furniture from Their Drawing Room of Newport. Located in Newport Rhode Island # 5220. A pair of fine late 18th early 19th century Bilbao Mirrors. Size: 15" wide and 32" tall. Condition: the gesso/wire decoration is in excellent condition and the gilding appears to be intact; the mirror/glass is appropriately distressed because of age (when these mirrors were first used, people with powdered wigs were looking at their reflections); the marble columns and framing may have had some restoration over the years, but there are no apparent serious problems. These mirrors are more commonly seen in finer New England 18th century homes. It is rare to find a pair in such nice condition. A similar pair are on exhibit at at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, (G328). Literature: In The Looking Glass in America, 1700-1825, by Helen Comstock, a pair of similar Bilbao mirrors are illustrated, p. 80, fig. 53. Comstock writes, "Bilbao mirrors reached America about 1790-1810 in some thus far unexplored phase of [America's] trade with Europe. They take their name from Bilbao (formerly sometimes written Bilboa), a port in northwestern Spain near the French border that was frequented by American merchant ships in the 18th century. Note: A similar pair of mirrors sold at Skinners Auctions for almost $22,000.00 in the Fall of 2010 with labels reading: "Bernard Cermenati, Carver, Gilder, Picture Frame and Looking Glass Manufacturer, No. 10 State Street - Newburyport." Our mirrors are un-labeled. Price: $22,500.00 the pair.
From Antiques, Volume 2 NO.4 October 1922:
The mirror itself is illustrated and runs true to early nineteenth-century type. The picture panel above the glass, however, is especially interesting, since it bears evidence of being an attempt at the depiction of an actual structure, though the multiplication of Palladian windows in the front elevation constitutes a somewhat disturbing design in fenestration for an era which seldom lost sight of the nice subtleties of emphasis. When, some fifteen years since, the present owner of the mirror purchased it in Bethlehem, New Hampshire, she was told that the mansion of the panel was supposed to be the residence at Newburyport of Sir Timothy Dexter, an ancient resident. Material for either verifying or disproving this tradition is not at the moment available to the Attic. But there should be plenty of it in Newburyport. Perhaps some resident of that town, who is possessed of a liking for historical research, may be able to offer to the confraternity of the Attic some further enlightenment as to Cermenati, Timothy Dexter, and the House of the Palladian Windows. In her article, Tabernacle Mirrors, published in Antiques Magazine for July 1922, Alice Van Leer Carrick laments her early neglect to copy the advertisement of a Newburyport frame-maker, which she once encountered on the back of a fine American mirror. Mrs. Charles E. Atwood, of New York City, it is possible to publish not only the name and advertisement of this Newburyport craftsman, but, as well, a picture of one of his mirrors. His name was Barnard Cermenati, indication apparently of old-world origin, perhaps of old-world training. His advertisement consists of a label pasted to the back of a mirror. Unfortunately it is too badly faded to admit of photography, but it is legible enough and presents the following information:
BARNARD CERMENATI Carver, Gilder, Picture Frame is Looking Glass Manufacturer No. 10 State Street, Newburyport Keeps constantly for sale at the most reduced prices A complete assortment of Looking Glasses, Picture Glasses, Prints, Spy Glasses, Thermometers, Glazier, Diamonds of the firs! quality, Drawing Paper, Paints, Pencils, Etc. Ladies' Dressing Glasses of all sizes. Looking Glass Plates of all sizes to fit old frames. Window Glass of all sizes. With all kinds of Frames in his line.Gentlemen and Ladies will gratify Mr. C. by calling and examining the above articles, whether they purchase or not.
(Below I have posted a few articles found in the old news paper archives) According to Harvard Magazine Bernard Cermenati was from Italian origins. He was in partnership with John Bernarda and later with Monfrino. In 1807 Cermenati opened a looking glass store at 10 State Street in Newburyport. Historic New England Collections notes he moved to Salem at the end of 1809.REF: Webster Signature Cermenati made and sold telescopes and thermometers. Essex Street, Salem; No. 2 State Street Boston (1807); both in Mass. A reference in Antiques and the Arts Weekly: Americanists no doubt spotted Thomas Coulborn & Sons. The West Midlands, UK, dealer handsome pair of Bilbao mirrors. Made in Spain around 1809 the mirrors with Cermenati’s label are in the collection of Historic New England and Coulborn’s pair once belonged to New England collectors Judge Arthur Beane and his wife, Mary Elizabeth Clarke. Skinner auctioned pieces inherited by the judge’s son, Arthur Beane Jr of Duxbury, Mass., in November 2010.
Other examples of Cermenati's work
Historic New England as noted in article Newbury Furniture by Nancy Carlisle.
Skinner Federal Gilt-gesso Eglomise Mirror Auction: 2538B Lot: 142 Sold for: $889
From James D Julia Spectacular Samoset 2002 Auction Grosses Over $2.4 Million! Auction: August 22 & 23, 2002 FINE FEDERAL MIRROR WITH EGLOMISE` PANEL WITH LABEL BY CERMENATI & BERNARDA. Original label on reverse of one board backboard. “Cermenati & Bernarda Carvers, Gilders, Picture frame, and Looking Glass Manuf. No. 2 State Street Boston”. Newspaper affixed to back is dated 1827. Mirror has fluted columns overhanging cornice with ball decoration. Gilt chalice of flowers against a white reverse painted background. Original mirror present. SIZE: 45 1/2″ h CONDITION: Four balls missing, small piece of gesso decoration missing, otherwise very good. 9-91556
Pair of Neoclassical Gilt Gesso and Pink Marble "Bilbao" Mirrors Auction: 2524B Lot: 63 Sold for: $21,330 Skinner Auction House Auction: American Furniture & Decorative Arts - 2524B Location: Boston Date / Time : November 07, 2010 11:00AM Description: Pair of Neoclassical Gilt Gesso and Pink Marble "Bilbao" Mirrors, Northwestern Spain, label of the importer Bernard Cermenati in Newburyport, Massachusetts, c. 1805-10, (imperfections), ht. 49 1/2, wd. 24 in. Literature: In The Looking Glass in America, 1700-1825, by Helen Comstock, a pair of similar Bilbao mirrors are illustrated, p. 80, fig. 53. Comstock writes, "Bilbao mirrors reached America about 1790-1810 in some thus far unexplored phase of [America's] trade with Europe. They take their name from Bilbao (formerly sometimes written Bilboa), a port in northwestern Spain near the French border that was frequented by American merchant ships in the 18th century. Note: Mirrors with labels reading: "Bernard Cermenati, Carver, Gilder, Picture Frame and Looking Glass Manufacturer, No. 10 State Street - Newburyport."Estimate $4,000-6,000 See link Skinner
Photo from Bernard & Levy Gallery FEDERAL EGLOMISE LOOKING GLASS MADE BY B. CERMENATI. Made and labeled by B. Cermenati (1783-1818) Portsmouth, New Hampshire 1812
Cermenati married Mary Rose Francis on April 10 1808 and vital records show one son Joseph, born November 4, 1808. Mary Cermenati looking glass store 6 Hanover St. (1818).