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Looking Glass, Tramp Art

1875-1900
Origin: America, Pennsylvania
OH: 48"; OW: 15 3/4"; OD: 4 3/4"
Wood, glass, and brass
Gift of Harleigh E. Seely
Acc. No. 1973.708.1
"Tramp Art" looking glass with brush holder: a wall hanging made of cigar box wood, a mirror, and upholstery tacks. The square-shaped mirror set on an angle in the middle of the hanging. The board is covered with many heavy edged carved decorations tacked to the board. These geometric pyramid shapes are symmetrically placed and include diamond shaped patterns, acorns, circles, a star of Bethlehem, and hearts. The brush holder is a rectangular box placed below the mirror. The top of the board is an ogee arch, and the bottom is scalloped out, leaving three projecting points. The entire edge of the hanging is decorated by a series of conically shaped furniture tacks.
Label:This is one of the most decorative objects in a category of fairly contemporary items sometimes called "Tramp art.: This collectors' term refers to objects, predominantly covered boxes and picture frames, multi-layered in construction with characteristic serrated edges.

This combination mirror and comb box features many designs typical of tramp art. Hearts, stars, and diamonds, all edged with chip carving, add character to the piece. The addition of upholstery tacks for further ornamentation is less common. This object has not been varnished or painted.

Of the larger objects produced in this art form, wall pockets and comb boxes were the easiest to make. The backing of this example is made from wood possibly cut from a packing crate. The piece of wood used to hold the mirror in place is from a cigar box that still retains the stamp of the Pennsylvania factory where it was made.