THE NICKLIN CARTER MIRROR
This fantastic Mirror reflects many of the features to be found in mid 18th century design books such as Thomas Chippendale's 'The Gentleman and Cabinet Makers' Director' 1762, as well as the work of Ince and Mayhew and Thomas Johnson - all of who promoted the fashionable Rococo style. This Mirror is likely to have been specially commissioned and made at the height of the English Rococo Revival circa 1850. The pear shaped frame displays elaborate, crisp carving including foliage, scrollwork, Ho-Ho birds and squirrels. In superb condition the Mirror shows good natural ware. Original water gilding and mirror plates. Minor repairs to extremities.
- Height: 254cm Width: 130cm
Background: the 1882 Settled Lands Act enabled the English landed gentry to sell their heirloom assets. Due to a number of factors, both domestically and internationally, the scene was set where collectors became dispersers and so the auction houses were inundated with superb collections. It was at the establishment's preferred auctioneers, Christies, that the the Mirror was purchased in London by the businessman Rueben Nicklin (born England 1842), on a visit he made to Britain. Nicklin had moved to Australia in 1864 to open the Brisbane office of Butler Brothers, Saddlers and Ironmongers which he made a success of. His considerable wealth however came as a result of savvy property investments in the burgeoning city's fringes.
The Nicklin's lived from 1876 in the then rural Coorparoo, today a suburb 4km from Brisbane's CBD. There they built two homes, the 1883 still standing 'Langlands House', which was described a few years after completion when for sale as a 'magnificent gentleman's residence' and the 1886 built 'elegant' John Hall & Son architect designed two story brick 'Hatherton' ( which was later acquired by the Methodist Church and become the Queen Alexandra Home for Children in 1912).
No doubt this impressive water gilded mirror standing a monumental 2.5 metres high, with its exceptional carving including foliage, scrollwork and the good luck symbol of Ho-Ho birds and twin squirrels contentedly nibbling away, added to the panache and visual interior impact these 'superior' homes had on visitors by conveying the appropriate image of refinement and in doing so reinforcing the Nicklin's social standing as a 'leading family'.
Travelling to London for business and pleasure in 1890 on the British Mail and Passenger Steamship, RMS Quetta, Reuben Nicklin and his wife Jane (the eldest daughter of the pioneering Queensland Lahey family) drowned when the ship hit an uncharted rock in the Torres Strait close to Thursday Island. The vessel, considered to be the finest and most luxurious on the Queensland - London route, sank shortly after 9pm in just minutes with the loss of over 130 lives. It remains one of Australia's worst maritime disasters. The Brisbane Courier newspaper at the time of Reuben Nicklin's drowning wrote that he had paid for the cricket, tennis and football facilities in Coorparoo and that 'the surviving members of the family are extremely well provided for'.The Nicklin's 19 year old daughter, Alice, who was traveling her parents, was reported to be 'a powerful swimmer' and so survived the ordeal having disrobed and finding some of the wreckage's flotsam and jetsam to cling onto. Alice was one of only two adult females to not perish and a girl of about two years was also saved (orphaned and unable to say who she was she became known as 'Quetta' Brown). The two Nicklin sons, 21yr old George (who would become the father of the future Queensland 'gentleman' premier, 1957 - 1968, Sir 'Honest' Frank Nicklin) and the younger 17yr old William, fortunately had remained home.
Living at 'Hatherton' at some time before 1902 was A.J. Carter, said to be a relative of the Nicklin family through marriage. He was described at the time of his death in 1917 aged 70 as one of Brisbane's 'most prominent citizens', a 'picturesque and interesting figure' who was a 'courtly and chivalrous gentleman'. English born Carter for a brief time studied at King's College, London came to Australia in 1870. His background had been in insurance starting with Lloyds of London. He became the manager of the Brisbane office of the Adelaide Milling Company. Interestingly he contributed articles under the nom de plume 'Kismet' to the newspapers on a range of matters including the political causes of the Franco-Prussian War. As well he was a founding member of the Johnsonian (private literary) Club after Samuel Johnson, the first of its kind in the world. A.J Carter was also the representative Consul General for France (1902 - 1917) and Norway (1898 -1917) and Consul for Sweden (1898 -1906) in Queensland. As well he was very active in the Brisbane Chamber of Commerce and was it's President for a number of years. He was also a widely respected member of the State Legislative Council of Queensland (1901 - 1917). It was during his time at 'Hatherton' that he came into the possession of the Mirror.
The Honourable A.J. Carter later installed the Mirror in his home 'Nunnington', a grand Victorian riverside villa situated at Kangaroo Point, Brisbane which he purchased in 1902. 'Nunnington' had originally been erected for the Auditor-General of Queensland, F.O Darvall. Sadly the house it is no longer standing. No doubt though the Mirror looked spectacular in its new home which was the venue of many gatherings of diplomats, government officials and family and friends. The Mirror then passed down through the family to the eldest male Carter. It was last in the possession of the late Judge Reginald Francis Carter, the author of 'Criminal Law of Queensland', a widely-used textbook affectionately known as Carter's Criminal Code before being acquired from his Estate by Ben Stoner in 2004. Since then the Stoner family have enjoyed the Mirror as a back drop to their lives. Finding out more about the Nicklin Carter Mirror, which has been called 'a masterpiece, not a mantelpiece', is an ongoing and enjoyable project. One lead to follow is the idea that the Mirror is one of a pair - the 'hunt' goes on!
What will be the next chapter to add to the story of the Nicklin Carter Mirror?
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