Line Vautrin mirrors in Delphine and Reed Krakoffs New York manse.
Line Vautrin mirrors in Delphine and Reed Krakoff’s New York manse.Photo: Metzner Sheila

The Story Behind Line Vautrin’s Sculptural Mirrors

The spellbinding reflectors have captivated the design world for decades

Line Vautrin, circa 1930.

Photo: Albin Guillot/Getty Images

Line Vautrin, the sculptor who dazzled 1930s Paris with her gilt-bronze buttons, jewelry, and other whimsies, is often called the poetess of metal. But her mirrors—one of Vautrin’s best-known bodies of work—were hewn from something far less traditional: an unusual amalgamation of resin and glass.

It was a simple umbrella handle, embedded with mirrors, that may have served as the starting point for the novel technique called Talosel, which involved heating malleable cellulose acetate resin (similar to that used for sunglasses) in order to embed it with cut fragments of mirror and sculpt its shape. Vautrin dreamily described the trademarked process as “the union of fire (which melted the material) and water, as represented by the transparency of glass.”

A 1958 Florence mirror in a Gstaad bath by Mattia Bonetti.

Photo: Alexandre Bailhache 

Her otherworldly looking glasses, often inscribed with poems or playful phrases and inspired by celestial objects, usually had a convex miroir sorcière at the center, rendering them useless for checking one’s makeup. Instead, they reflect back the piece’s environment with a surreal, fish-eye gaze. As AD100 fan Julie Hillman explains, they are “more like fine jewelry.” Paris’s beau monde loved the mirrors, which ranged from pocket-size to a meter in diameter, and were embraced by the likes of designer Jean Royère, who placed them in his interiors.

A Talosel mirror in Giancarlo Valle and Jane Keltner de Valle’s Brooklyn loft.

Photo: Stephen Kent Johnson 

Ever since, like the stars that inspired them, they’ve come in and out of view, setting the homes of tastemakers ashimmer. AD100 designer Giancarlo Valle hung one in his Brooklyn loft, while Reed Krakoff assembled a constellation in his Manhattan manse. “There’s a witchcraft to them,” points out dealer Liz O’Brien, who has owned several over the years—she prefers the super-rare colored versions—saying, “Once you have one, you want another.”

Soleil à Pointes No. 3 mirror, circa 1955.

Photo: Courtesy of Carpenters Workshop Gallery

Folie or Le Soleil a Rendez-Vous avec la Lune mirror, circa 1959.

Photo: Courtesy of Carpenters Workshop Gallery

Monaco mirror, circa 1967.

Photo: Courtesy of Carpenters Workshop Gallery

Julien Lombrail, cofounder of Carpenters Workshop Gallery, which held an exhibition of mirrors in November, estimates Vautrin sculpted some 70 shapes. Some, like the Soleil à Pointes, were made en masse, while only two examples of the Monaco mirror, shown, are known to exist. For Lombrail, they all capture a French sense of art de vivre: “Elegant, refined, artistic, and astonishing, they evoke joy and fantasy.”