Contrary to first impressions, the scene on this mirror is less than innocent. The young female orange seller is offering her fruit to a rich, young gentleman. The vendor’s seated position in the cobbled alley and her simple, figure-hugging attire suggest that she is lower class. The well-dressed gentleman towering over her leans in for a closer look, his menacing smirk suggesting he has dishonest intentions.
Pygmalion Compact Mirror, 1815
Between the 1600s and 1800s, young female orange sellers could be spotted in England at markets and the theatre. During plays, orange sellers would sell their produce between acts. So-called ‘orange wenches’ acted as intermediaries between actresses and powerful high society men, arranging dressing room meetings with the stars of the shows. In this context, the lewd connotations of an orange seller could suggest the looseness and immorality of an individual. In fact, Nell Gwynne, famous actress and mistress of Charles II, started out as an orange seller!
Whoever owned this beautiful little mirror was probably very stylish. The deceiving date of 1815 is printed on the puff on the inside, but the compact’s 1950s plastic cover gives away its relative youth! Regardless of its age, this image is certainly a strange choice for a compact mirror!