Mirror panels from the second "Mauretania"



These peach-tinted mirrored glass panels from 1939 are engraved with symbols of planets including a dwarf planet, Ceres. They're orbiting around a clock, representing the sun. Bottom right you may recognize Neptune's trident – with subtle 'shading' conveying three-dimensional spikes. Then, moving clockwise, are Uranus, god of the sky, Saturn, god of agriculture, Adam and Eve for Earth, Mercury's wand, a cornucopia representing Ceres - goddess of the harvest – then Venus, and Jupiter's eagle. All over, the bubbles – maybe they're bubble-like planets - are a hint these panels spent their life at sea. They're from the luxury liner SS Mauretania, the second of that name, owned by Cunard White Star and built locally at Birkenhead for the London-New York service. The panels were in the first class dining room. Here they're arranged in a slightly different order than on the ship because some are missing. The room was also decorated with double-sided clear glass panels depicting the constellations. The planets were popular motifs in the Art Deco style of the period. Art Deco combined natural organic forms with the geometric shapes of the machine age, taking inspiration too from the aerodynamic streamlining of planes, trains – and ocean liners themselves. The style expressed glamour, progress and optimism. The bold engravings here were diamond-cut and acid-etched at the London Sand Blast Decorative Glass Works. The Works' clients included Claridges Hotel and Harvey Nichols. Although famous designers were involved in the Mauretania's fit-out, so far no record has been found telling us who designed these particular panels. After serving as a troop ship during the war the Mauretania became a liner again before she had to give way to more modern ships. In 1965 she was broken up. These panels, and some of the constellations, were rescued by chance, about to be smashed to smithereens like the rest of the interiors. They're unique. Not least because the skill of their unknown craftsmen can't be matched today.