ERCULES and Mercury, bedecked in gold, flank an extraordinary 17th-century trophy mirror frame, recently discovered in Paris and now returned to England, which is the subject of a national campaign by the Fitzwilliam Museum. The Cambridge institution has, so far, and with the help of the Friends’ fund, V&A and other donors, raised 80% of the requisite £345,000 and is asking for help in reaching its target by December 31, the end of its bicentennial year.
An exquisite survivor from the golden age of wood-carving, the mirror frame is of gilded limewood and bears the arms of naval hero Admiral Edward Russell, 1st Earl of Orford (1653– 1727), who commissioned it for his estate, Chippenham Park in Cambridgeshire, probably to celebrate his victories at the battles of Barfleur and La Hogue during 1692, which secured William III’S position in England and led to Russell’s elevation to First Lord of the Admiralty and later earldom. A personification of Fame with trumpets appears beneath the mirror.
‘Even if we didn’t know about the provenance of this spectacular trophy frame, it would stop traffic,’ enthuses museum director Tim Knox. ‘The frame is resplendent, with its highly sophisticated
Hcarving of delicious marine decoration and the strapping figures of Hercules and Mercury. I am determined to bring this exquisite example of craftsmanship and English history home to Cambridge for future generations to enjoy and learn from.’
The Russell frame is one in a series of major acquisitions with which the Fitzwilliam hopes to mark the 200th anniversary of its foundation. In the summer, the museum announced its successful bid in saving the Castle Howard cabinets for the nation. Just £70,000 is required to bring this treasure back home to East Anglia once and for all. Visit www. fitzmuseum.cam.ac.uk for further information and to donate.